Co-LAB 4 Epitomizes Collaboration

 Written by Mariko Nagashima
Coriolis Dance Collective in Rainbow Fletcher’s
Frenchy, Texas, Fritzy, and Helga
Photo by Ernie Sapiro
Coriolis Dance Collective presented their annual Co-LAB 4 Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, 2012, at the Erickson Theater. Founded on the principles of collaboration with other artists, this mission is realized to its fullest extent with Co-LAB 4; Coriolis partnered with Rainbow Fletcher and Ezra Dickinson of the Offshore Project to present this annual spring showcase. Though a fruitful partnership, this particular program felt almost like an Offshore Project show with a guest appearance by Coriolis instead of the other way around.

The show began with several songs by cellist Dylan Reick and the band, Threat of Beauty. With a richly textured blend of genres, their loose jazzy melodies were both an entrancing and engaging start to the evening. The first dance piece was Fletcher’s Frenchy, Texas, Fritzy, and Helga, an eerie ode to a group of cabaret dancers slightly past their prime, complete with a distorted rendition of the Can-Can. Performed by the four Coriolis women (Marissa Quimby, Andrea Larreta, and co-founders Natascha Greenwalt Murphy and Christin Call), the quartet strutted in their towering black heels, kicked their gorgeously long legs, and caved in their stomachs in withering model poses, all with wide-eyed vampy stares. Though Fletcher has choreographed for this troupe before, they didn’t seem at home in her movement here. The minimalistic gestures were a large departure from their more grounded contemporary aesthetic, and the four couldn’t quite capture the presentational character to make the excessive teasing and preening believable. Quimby, an ever-enthralling performer, was the only one who maintained the right blend of haughty and sultry throughout. Unfortunately, the piece wasn’t over the top enough to be a parody but lacked the charm to make it an authentic cabaret rendition.

In Rock, Paper, Scissors, jointly choreographed and performed by Fletcher and Dickinson, the duo abstracted the classic game with creepily inhuman hand gestures and slow motion acrobatics. Beginning seated facing away from the audience, their sculpted backs were a marvel to behold as they contorted their arms through geometric shapes in measured synchronicity. Reick’s resonant cello playing and the pools of gold light playing off their Fletcher’s leathery black leotard, created a dark undercurrent as Dickinsonbecame a human pommel horse supporting Fletcher’s gymnastics. The final stunt, though a little shaky in its establishment, had Fletcher in an inverted pike, arms balancing on Dickinson’s thighs and legs shooting behind his head. Though no one was keeping score, it seemed Fletcher established the upper hand in this game. These two are clear masters of their own style, and delivered their powerful and controlled aesthetic with an unmistakable clarity.

 Also choreographed by Fletcher and Dickinsonwas Too many to recount, the final piece of the evening. Here Coriolis was joined by Offshore Project dancers Jonathan Betchtel and Benjamin Maestes. The ensemble of eight appeared in orange prison jumpsuits, beginning the work with more precise gestural motions. Although a gestural theme had already been seen in the evening, it was revitalized by placing the dancers in a tight clump, their quick direction changes turning them into an organized school of fish. The piece continued to evolve in a series of vignettes: a grid-like intersection of rhythmically marching lines, a dynamic duet by Quimby and Fletcher, and the construction of a human sofa that each dancer lounged on in succession among them. These were eye-catching images, but some seemed inexplicable in the context established by their prisoner costuming. Aside from one unconvincing cat-fight between Greenwalt Murphy, Call, and Larreta, the dancers looked more comfortable in this piece; their lovely extensions were on full display in inventive partnering passages, and the floorwork and more full-bodied choreography suited the troupe’s strengths. Though the muscle-y Offshore dancers lent the piece an added dynamism, the group as a whole wasn’t always in synch, revealing the separate entities they actually are. 

Performing another choreographer’s work keeps companies fresh and provides a wonderful opportunity for growth. Fletcher and Dickinson’s vision definitely pushed Coriolis far out of their comfort zone, but it is a testament to the group’s versatility and strength that they were able to perform it as well as they did. It is wonderful to see them experimenting with different styles, but perhaps the next collaboration would benefit from pairing outside choreographers’ work with a piece of their own choreography, as they have in previous programs.

For more information about Coriolis Dance Collective and The Offshore Project visit: http://www.coriolisdance.com and http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Offshore-Project/248518293517.