Written by Nalisha Rangel
On Friday, June 17th Raisebeck Hall was filled as Khambatta Dance Company (formerly known as Phffft Dance Theater Co.) took to the stage. Cyrus Khambatta’s choreography is showcased in three pieces, beginning with Rush. Aptly named, Rush featured five dancers dressed in black shirts and shorts with black bands around their knees. They rushed around the stage, running then spinning to stop with arms rested parallel on a single plane in space while their torsos twist. The chaos was lyrical and followed the orchestral interpretation of Tool’s Third Eye in a classical rendition of the original rock piece. When the music sped up so did the dancers, winding and spinning around the stage to take up every inch. The last half of the piece positioned all five dancers on their own line across the stage, dancing in parallel like notes on a staff of sheet music. Back and forth they swayed with powerful pirouettes and as the music picked up then slowed they slowed too with controlled extensions and rolls to the floor. They pushed and pulled each other to a final fall and dropped to the floor to end.
As a dark, tense cello melody begins the next work, Centrifugal Force, three female dancers in white slip-like dresses, each under a spot light, twirl in place like music box figures. They pose jaggedly (angled hips to one side and a leg with a turned-in foot on the other) and then turn lyrically, with extended legs and arms reached out gracefully. Two male dancers engaged in a duet around each other and danced in unison back to back. They hit each pose so tightly and both mirrored the other perfectly—even in their leaps that soared to great height only to hit the ground on cue. Joined again by the other three dancers, all five revolved around themselves with faces void of expression. There was no chemistry between them and they didn’t touch; their movements were independent. They walk backward in a circle and began to look at one another and they physically connect while moving across the stage. The piece ended with a single dancer in the center of the stage. She twirled slowly in place with her arms twisted around her torso, wrapped like vines, and the lights faded to black.
Interview with the American Dream started with audio of different people interpreting “the American Dream.” Rhythmic beats to synthesized keys cued Rachel Randall to enter. Dressed in dark grey pants and a turtle neck blouse she exhibited tight, controlled movements with multiple turns, stopping on a dime to balance. Four more dancers joined her and initiated a cannon across the space. In this work, Khambatta plays with engaging power lifts, choreographing each transition with quick, aggressive moves that show each dancer’s core strength and extension. Impressive direction by Khambatta weaved each limb and head to initiate a domino effect of smooth and controlled transitions. There was an aggressive pas de deux with battements and pirouettes and a dichotomy of leaning on each other one second only to push away with a kick or foot trip the next. The directionality changed continuously. Randall’s solo at the end was terrific as she twirled furiously and leapt to the ground only to bring herself up in a gymnast-like back-flip with one arm, all the while her ponytail spinning off her head like a fifth limb.
Scott Wells and Dancers commanded the stage following intermission. This troupe made plain, rubber exercise balls look like a carnival ride with their summer-salting acrobatics over and across the bouncy surfaces of all different sizes. Their quick, witty outbursts and improv dance was just the icing on the cake. These guys (and gal) sprinted toward each other across the stage only to jump and be caught by a partner who then eased both bodies into multiple turns. Some of the flying began with an up-side-down movement or even cart-wheeling into another’s arms and then being catapulted up over a head. Even tiny Shannon Preto could catch the 200-pound man running and landing on her shoulder with ease. The catchers would then tuck the flyer’s body under to roll smoothly to the ground together. This display of gravitational teasing went on throughout each of their works. Between the juggling, ninja-screaming, superhero underwear stripping, each dancer exhibited agility, balance, strength, and power. But the exercise balls stole the show. They bounced on stage from a second floor balcony to be caught, then thrown, by the dancers, and proceeded to support the dancers as they ran and glided onto the balls parallel to the floor, rolling from one side of the stage to the other, sometimes catching two or three dancers in a row while they rolled side-by-side with different sized balls. Oh, and the dancers are wearing swimming goggles this entire time? This fantastic display of physical strength with improv comedy was a unique theatrical treat.