Written by Anna Waller
|Shannon Stewart’s An Inner Place That Has No Place
Photo by Tim Summers
|Maureen Whiting’s About a Tree
Photo by Tim Summers
Maureen Whiting’s About a Tree led the evening in a much darker direction with a work that entered the cruel natural world. An ensemble of women and men, which included Whiting, surrounded a large, two-piece tree structure lying horizontal on the ground with a collection of detached leaves and branches. Dancers interacted with these structures and each other in fluid roles that seemed to shift between animal, human, and plant. They devoured each other like packs of wild animals, breathed in rhythmic patterns as they rose to life, and took pieces of wood and leaves upon their bodies as they became tree-like themselves. The costumes served to dissociate the dancers from any single identity. White shirts and bottoms were abstracted from their humanness by a piece of dark brown cloth on a different part of each dancer’s costume; dramatic, reddish make-up was reminiscent but not too rigidly symbolic of blood. Repetition of sharp or rhythmic gestures, full-body movements, and breath played against sinuous movement phrases filled with images of frailty. A sense of urgency carried throughout About a Tree, as if life were no certain venture— a glaring truth of the natural world. Though this dark intensity seemed a little heavy-handed at times, Whiting and her dancers were totally committed to the dance and to one another making for a captivating performance with memorable visuals centered in the natural world.
|Green Chair Dance Group
Photo by J. Makary
Philadelphia’s Green Chair Dance Group rounded out the evening with the hilarious Tandem Biking and Other Dangerous Pastimes for Two. Choreographed and performed by Green Chair Project members Sarah Gladwin Camp, Hannah de Keijzer, and Gregory Holt, Dangerous Pastimes was a series of talking and dancing vignettes held together by a clear movement vocabulary that shifted in quality for each section. Camp, de Keijzer, and Holt are three capable movers who transitioned softly and generously in and out of the floor and between partnerships with one another. They also looked and acted like everyday people in possession of their own personalities, even as their movement and situations verged on absurd. In one of the most poignant and clearly narrative moments, de Keijzer and Holt fall into an embrace and subsequent duet without Camp—this is Dangerous Pastimes for Two, after all. Camp later shuffled back on stage dressed head to toe in snow gear and revisited some of the group’s movement phrases. Having been “frozen” out of the friendship, Camp became stunted and unfulfilled in the presence of so much bulky clothing. The piece highlighted the tricky relationship between words and movement, exploiting this for comedic effect. Early on, Holt attempted to describe and show a duet between the other two dancers, failing utterly in a ridiculous display of how inadequate language and one body is for communicating a whole dance. On the other hand, they introduced sections with a recurring kind of title: “We are Luscious People” later became “We are Desperate People.” This use of language let the audience understand the ensuing dance in a way that they might not have with movement alone.