Leading Dancers Excel in SPIRITO

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127th St. Dance Company in SPIRITO
Photo by Walter Zamojski
SPIRITO, the latest offering from 127th St. Dance Company, presented nine works by Artistic Director Barbara Caioli and Resident Choreographer Rochelle Rapaszky at the Broadway Performance Hall on July 12 and 13, 2013. The thirteen dancers of 127th St. Dance differed widely in levels of technical ability and experience (the program specifically ranked the artists from principal to apprentice), providing for many group works built on a foundation of solos accompanied by mostly background corps choreography with the leading dancers carrying the bulk of the performance.
Rapaszky’s duet for Annie McKee and Lionel Flynn, You & A Few Others, showcased petite McKee’s powerful stage presence and consistently smooth pirouettes. Although McKee stood out in many of the works, her presence in You & A Few Others filled the entire theater, a strong contrast to Rapaszky’s direction of Flynn, who existed mostly to move McKee around the space and through the air. This seemed to be a theme throughout the evening—the three men of the company were utilized almost exclusively to partner women or to swell numbers of dancers in group works.
In WEEDS, Caioli designed a jazzy work for a male and female lead backed by a female corps. Wearing Fosse-like trunks and hosiery, the women created an updated version of Giselle with the corps arranged in a semi-circle around the leads. Instead of dancing him to death, the women slowly cornered the lone man downstage, using the force of their presence to push him off the apron as the stage went dark.
Rapaszky’s While You Weren’t Looking, the most balletic of the works, was a solo for dancer Shannan McCormick. Unlike the rest of the evening’s pieces, this work failed to achieve full theatrical quality. Costumed in an unremarkable skirted leotard under an unchanging full wash of lights, the choreography appeared a series of ballet class exercises, which, while competently executed, needed pointe shoes at the very least for more impact.  
127th St. Dance Company in SPIRITO
Photo by Walter Zamojski
Caioli collaborated with local composer Larry Mahlis in Battito di Cuore, performed to live percussion accompaniment by Mahlis. A female soloist downstage in a pool of light bourréeed to the percussive beat and curved forward in cambré as if weighted down by both music and light. With a loud musical crash, the lights brightened to illuminate the stage, and the ensemble, clad in oranges and reds, leapt explosively into the air. This image was echoed in reverse at the end of the work as one dancer ran over a ramp made from the bent backs of the others and vaulted into the air as the lights went out. Mahlis’s score ended far too quickly, but provided an exhilarating finish to the entire program.
The most exciting works of the evening though were Sveglia nel Grigio by Caioli and Co-creating Ascension by Rapaszky, the first a solo performed by Emily Lubinski and the second a group work to music by the iconic Philip Glass. In Sveglia nel Grigio, Lubinski began in a dimly lit space that moved with her throughout the work. Her muscular control and use of through-line with an elegant, grounded energy was well highlighted by Caioli’s choreography.
Rapaszky’s Co-creating Ascension opened to dancers swathed in filmy white costumes under dim blue lights, a vision reminiscent of gas-lit Romanticism. With evocations of Lucinda Childs’s Einstein on the Beach (also a Glass composition) and with Paul Taylor-esque sweeping, bounding sautés, the movement was fluid with angular limbs and occasional repetition which intensified a mechanized effect. Rapaszky used simple and effective choreography, including a series of traveling cambrés to change formation. Dancers pulsed like stars, ebbing and flowing in what seemed a signature of Rapaszky’s choreographic instincts. The performers appeared both to control and to be shaped by the universe at large.
127th St. Dance Company in SPIRITO
Photo by Walter Zamojski
Covering a multitude of classically based styles, SPIRITO created a dance variety show, each work strikingly different from the others. This variety show atmosphere was heightened with dancers only bowing once at the very end of the performance, and long pauses between pieces which detracted from the overall flow of the evening. While many group sections would have benefited from additional rehearsal and cleaning, the leading dancers’ soloist work displayed genuine artistry and technical skill. Additionally, SPIRITO displayed a highly effective collaboration between the choreographers and lighting designer Meg Fox. Fox’s designs carved and molded the stage, transitioning between cues seamlessly and creating a powerful visual impact which augmented the dancers’ performances.
127th St. Dance Company states its mission is to “create and present work to the widest possible audience.” SPIRITO, an enjoyable evening of dance filled with a variety of styles for any taste, seems a great step towards creating and maintaining a wide audience for classically based dance in Seattle. For more information, see the company website at 127thstdance.org.