Written by Mariko Nagashima
Threads, a one-night-only dance performance at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, offered a wonderful opportunity for several emerging choreographers to display their work. Sapience Dance Collective, an empowering all-female troupe, presented several pieces. The first, choreographed by Ariella Brown, was an excerpt of the full-length Species, and depicted women stuck in a chaotic urban lifestyle returning to their more natural side as wind, water, birds, and insects. Initially, each one appeared swept up in their individual worlds; when one attempted to connect with the others, they all scorned her proffered handshake. This denied interaction triggered solos by each of the five women exploring their alter-egos. In the most interesting of these, one dancer cocooned herself in white fabric, becoming an amorphous larvae wriggling mesmerizingly to the sound of insect feeding noises.
Another piece by Sapience titled Little Lives and choreographed by Victoria Jacobs, centered on one woman’s slow pilgrimage diagonally across the stage while the other five dancers whirled continuously about her. Symbolic of how seemingly mundane lives contain great complexities, the slow trajectory created a lovely focal point for Jacobs’ creative patterning and movement.
In addition to their group pieces, Sapience Dance Collective presented two very different solos. In Journey, a rather long-winded solo choreographed and performed by Sarah Seder, she reeled through impressive backbends to stand as if hovering on the edge of a precipice. The thoroughly enchanting music, a mix of Seder and her husband Nathan’s own siren-like singing and a cappella beats, augmented the repetitive choreography. Completely different in tone was the flamenco influenced La Somnambula, performed by Victoria Jacobs and choreographed by Aileen Passlof. With a flowing black skirt and lace shroud draped over her face and arms, Jacobs exuded pride and intensity as she spun luxuriously before running offstage, suddenly impassioned by a distant source.
Keneniah Bystrom presented two pieces, one a humorous solo depicting a man getting stuck in an elevator, and the other a somber duet. Bystrom’s mimed solo Elevator was a nice comic respite from the weighty issues presented throughout of the show. In Embraced, thyself, Bystrom explored how people must confront what they want from themselves and also what they want to divest from themselves. Victoria McConnell and Naphtali Beyleveld depicted separate factions of a personality; their bodies quaked as if spurred by a foreign inner working. Suddenly embracing and just as suddenly contracting apart, each was an incomplete whole. Maintaining their final embrace and taking turns lifting each other while rotating offstage, they indicated how both what you want and disdain in yourself must ultimately coexist.
Victoria McConnell’s Paradox examined how opposing forces can often, inexplicably, work together to create balance. Elucidating this concept by fluctuating between jittery bouncing movements and smooth wave-like motions, McConnell easily played the two styles off each other. In this convoluted work, it was the smaller gestures—hands reaching one over the other and shoulders popping repeatedly forward—that created added texture; a decidedly strong showing by this emerging artist.
The standout piece of the evening, however, was Katy Hagelin’s The Seed. Based on a poem penned by Hagelin herself describing one resilient seedling growing in the “desolate wasteland” of a decayed civilization’s ruins, this layered work offered intricate choreography on a cast of talented, well-trained dancers. Magnetically drawn to each other, Bystrom and Elizabeth Gordon executed spectacular lifts and nimble partnering in the opening duet. Gordon displayed her beautiful lines with particular elegance and a not-overdone sense of longing. The narrative continued with a corps of six dancers, fluidly changing groupings through dynamic floor work and a frenzy of pencil turns and frog-like jumps. Hagelin wields impressive choreographic skills making her a distinct new force on the
Filled with strong modern dance plumbing a variety of ideas, the performance was only hindered by the poor seating arrangement. Without risers, only viewers in the front row had a clear view of the stage, and floor work was virtually undetectable from any other seat. Regardless, the audience responded well to the performance, and the Abbey’s efforts to present interesting art, especially by talented young artists, to a greater community is commendable indeed.