Monday, November 19, 2012

A look behind the scenes at Inlet’s marvelous evening of dance

Roy Berko
(Member, Dance Critics Association)

Every once in a while a reviewer has the opportunity to not only see an enthralling dance performance, but to experience it from the inside.  I accomplished both when I not only saw Inlet Dance’s recent evening of dance, but sat in on a rehearsal.

Inlet Dance Theatre’s sold out November 16 performance at the Hanna Theatre consisted of two world premieres. 

The opening number was a ten-minute excerpt from CHAKRA, choreographed by Kapila Palihawadana.  Kapila is a Sri Lankan born dancer/choreographer/founder and artistic director of nATANDA Dance Theatre of Sri Lanka.  He is one of five international artists who are participating in a three-month stay in the area through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion International Artist-in-Residence Program.  Kapila has spent his time working with Inlet dancers and engaging in sharing his talents throughout the community.  The culmination of his residency will be the full unveiling of CHAKRA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks ‘13. 

CHAKRA, with mood-right lighting by Trad Burns, flowing costumes designed by Kapila, Ivan Leccaroa Correra and Kristin Wade, and an original acoustic drum score by Sean Ellis Hussey, was emotionally involving.  The athletic piece, with strong leaps and powerful interactions, represented a traditional healing ceremony.   The short excerpt insured pleasurable anticipation of the forthcoming staging.

From 2006 through 2008, Inlet Dance participated in the Ohio Arts Council’s International Artist Exchange Program.  Artistic director Bill Wade travelled to Easter Island to select an artist from the island to come to Cleveland.  The next year Akahanga Rapu Tuki came to Cleveland  to teach the Inlet dancers five traditional dances from Rapa Nui.  In 2008 seven Inlet dancers travelled to Easter Island to complete the artist exchange.   They spent two weeks performing, teaching and exploring and forming a “family” with the island residents. 

The results of these exchanges inspired CENTER OF THE EARTH (TE PITO O TE HENUA).  Developed in small segments, the final melding of the parts became public at the Hanna Theatre presentation.  It will be repeated at the International Performing Arts for Youth Conference in Philadelphia during its January session.

The results of the years of effort was obvious to the enthralled audience.  CENTER OF THE EARTH is a tour de force.  The first segment, Hotu Matua, explores the idea of a healthy interdependent community centering on the journey of the people coming to Rapa Nui on canoes.  The water, the waves, the cooperative movements were all vividly apparent. 

Three women and then three men next illustrated the clear gender specific roles and dances of the residents.  Exploring the island left an impression of the physical environment and was illustrated in the fourth segment, Lave Tubes, with the dancers forming visual images of the topography, the needed dexterity to transverse the land, and how cooperation was required to be successful. 

Wind, created by whipping and interweaving with heavy ropes, gave a clear vision of the ever present “voice” in every experience on the island.  It incorporated the history, sense of ritual and the breath of life of the Rapa Nui people.

Underwater World, a metaphor for uniqueness and diversity, unearthed visions of turtles and other underwater sea life.  The ocean is always there, always present in the life of these island people. 

REPRISE was a repeated capsule of the entire program.  It was a reinforcement that illustrated that the work was image based choreography, rather than the traditional dance step based choreography.

I had the privilege of observing a rehearsal of the Hanna program at the Idea Center on PlayhouseSquare.  The marvel of Inlet is its total dedication to collaborative works, in an engaging example of a functional family.  Both Bill Wade, who is a master at working interactively with his dancers, much as he did when he taught at the Cleveland School for the Arts, and Kapila Palihawadana, sought out input and integrated the views and ideas of the dancers.  This technique is not usual in the dance world.  Most commonly, the choreographer develops the movements and implants his ideas on the dancers.  Most often this is done through knowledge of traditional dance vocabulary and historically developed movements.

Since there is no vocabulary for the types of dances being developed for these programs, not only were movements being created, but a vocabulary was developed.  According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis of communication, if  something has no name it does not exist in any form other than a quick illusion.  To create permanency, and the ability to repeat and perfect the ideas, they needed to be named.  This was evident in the idea development as the interactive dances were created.

It was fascinating to watch how almost fifteen minutes was spent developing the exact hand placements for an instantaneous segment.  Not once did the choreographer tell the dancers what to do.  The dancers suggested, practiced, worked it out, as Wade blended his views with the “family.”  It was a lesson in true cooperative creation and the building of trust.  What a lesson for others to learn of how to create without letting ego and power be the rule of operation.  It was a true lesson on the building of community, an important aspect of not only the motto of the people of Easter Island, but of Wade, himself.

Capsule judgement:  The Inlet Dance Theatre program was an experience that anyone interested in community, healthy family relationships, ethnology and sociology, let alone dance, should experience.  When the program is repeated in other local venues, GO!  This is an absolutely MUST SEE experience!
Next up:  CHAKRA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks ’13, April 11-13, 2013.