Six women stared out at the audience, poised in formal tableau around a brown loveseat. Poetic descriptions of mothers and grandmothers played overhead, reinforcing the family portrait-feel of the initial image in Entropy’s Dust & Angels. Entropy is the collaboration of Alicia Mullikin, responsible for choreography, and her husband Daniel Mullikin, the multi-instrumentalist musician who created the evening’s soundscape live through use of cello and looping device. Their collaboration has led to an organic and supportive relationship between music and movement, where the urgency, drama, and beauty of the dancing is well matched by the sound environment.
Mullikin’s choreography is typified by full bodied wave-like movements with swinging hair and exciting drops to the floor. An emphasis on partner work dominated the group sections, where interweaving dancers toppled over and supported each other to create an intricate kaleidoscope of moving parts. Graceful shapes and lines were punctuated with whipping motions and fueled by a powerfully emotional core. End-capped by group sections, the evening centered on a series of extended duets.
The first, between Jordan Colvard and Carla María Negrete Martínez, seemed a meditation on love. This first duet began happily and affectionate, later developing a subtly insistent need and a tender, hopeful sadness. Shifting moods, Mullikin and Becca Blackwell’s duet portrayed a clear sibling relationship, complete with “stay-on-your-side-of-the-couch” spats. The playfully aggressive actions, while fun and comedic, were well layered with depth and nuance that captured the kind of complicated relationship siblings often have. Blackwell’s expressions in particular, subtle and perfectly timed, added greatly to the believability of the relationship. The final duet was the most abstract—a thoughtful and almost spiritual-feeling dance between Rebecca Barney and Margaret Hotchkiss. Barney seemed to be helping Hotchkiss on a journey of some kind, assisting her walk in several ways, including carrying the bottoms of her feet as Hotchkiss placed each step—perhaps an invisible angel guiding the way. Elevating the sacred feeling of this section, Mullikin and some of the other dancers sang and hummed over the cello in the style of a new world hymn.
Other than the loveseat, a central feature of the set was a large tent made of pieced-together floral sheets that stretched the entire width of the stage. For most of the show it lay limp on the floor, raised only before the third duet. While the tent was pretty and softened the space, there was no evident reason for its existence. It was particularly unclear why it needed to be raised mid-piece, especially since the interruption of flying the fabric was not small. Even though the audience was able to clearly understand what was going on, the action of raising the tent was partially obscured behind the couch in an ill-conceived attempt to ease the transition. If raising this set piece was truly essential to the work, it should be an event either granted visual importance, or performed invisibly.
Mullikin’s choreography seeks cooperation. The only conflicts (in the sibling duet) were mild and within the context of working in solidarity towards a common goal. This is also reflected in the egalitarian-style partnering, which gave everyone an equal chance to shine. While the partnering was strong already, it would be exciting to see Entropy take it to the next level—entering lifts with equal abandon as the dancers express diving to the floor. Eliminating the moment of preparation and anticipation is no easy feat, but it could make each of the impressive lifts more surprising and impactful. Mullikin is obviously a powerhouse with the dance moves—her choreography is jam-packed, making it exciting and high-energy. The slow movements, however, at times feel a bit rushed. Given more time they could really become exquisite and create more space and breath within the piece. The dynamics of this work were particularly important because the tension resides not in an external source, but in a place of subtle, internal reflection. Dust & Angels had the quality of home and memoire, with the substance lying between the action.
Entropy’s performance of Dust & Angels ran September 19-20, 2015 at Velocity Dance Center’s Founders Theater.