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CCC Premiers Four New Works at Velocity

Written by Jacqueline Brock

Choreographer and dancer Catherine Cabeen in “Composites”
Photos by Paulo T Photography.
Catherine Cabeen and Company premieres four new works on their program, Hyphen 2012, at Velocity this weekend, March 22–24, 2012. Choreographer Catherine Cabeen’s intricate weaving of energy and limbs has no equal as was demonstrated in the evening’s first piece, 5 Windows. As her body starts to move, the audience can do nothing but appreciate the technical beauty and skill displayed before them. Add to the mix Kane Mathis’s musical prowess on the oud , a traditional North African and Middle Eastern instrument, and one’s body immediately becomes lulled into every detail of Cabeen and Mathis’s interactions. Cabeen winds and unwinds, with every inch of her gorgeously long body, under, over, and beside Mathis. Physically their relationship is subtle, prolonged eye contact and sharing of weight summing up the interactions. However, the piece takes on the profound sense of a duet through the manipulation and control that the music claims over Cabeen’s timing, intention, direction, levels, and use of space. As discussed after the performance, Mathis came to Cabeen with an invitation to create a dance to the suite he had created for the oud. Taking this invitation as a chance to have two different cultures speak to each other, Cabeen placed her highly American influenced modern technique next to the oud in a conversation that left most of the audience speechless.

A quartet of ladies dressed in brightly colored layers responded to the ringing composition of Nat Evans and Ross Simonini in All of the Above.Cabeen’s distrust of unison inspired the twisting choreography of four dancers working separately to create whole images. When questioned about this piece post-performance, Cabeen stated, “I want to be part of a community that is rich, diverse, and all doing different things, but still working together. This piece reflects that desire.” Then adding jokingly in one of her typical funny voices and sly smirks, “I wanted to create one big woman from four separate ones.” In this, she was certainly successful. There were moments where the labyrinthine tangles of the four were so tightly woven that one could not recognize whose arm belong to whom.

The next premier in the program, On The Way Out, was choreographed specifically for the Velocity performance space. The piece utilized the doorway into the adjoining studio at the back of Founder’s Theater. The doorway offered the audience full view of the performer, Sarah Lustbader, while at other times limiting the view to just select body parts. Cabeen’s use of the doorway completely reshaped the classical movement vocabulary she utilized. An arabesque that stretched beyond both sides of the doorway drew the audience’s focus to the torso and pelvis, not the extension of the body. The articulation of a pointed foot became all the more prominent when it was the only body part in view. To contrast this, Lustbader would occasionally scoop to the entryway of the door, surprisingly creating a moment of intensity merely by being in full view and in closer proximity. Lustbader’s distant location contrasted with that of Mathis, who was staged very close to the audience, playing the Kora. Interestingly, their juxtaposed relationships to the space created more focus for the musician than in typical dance pieces. Cabeen’s work as a whole gives more consideration to the soundscape and more character to the musicians than many other choreographers, but this piece oddly felt as if it could not have been happening unless Mathis was participating, as if his playing was evoking the distorted memory of the dancer in the doorway. Regardless of the narrative intent, it was a perfect meshing of movement and sound.

Catherine Cabeen in “Composites”
Photos by Paulo T Photography.
After a brief intermission, Cabeen performed a solo she created in 2010, set to the text of Jay McAleer and musical composition of Julian Martlew, titled, Composites. The physical vocabulary closely resembled sign language in speed, repetition, and execution. The incredible articulation and delivery of Cabeen’s “speech” was linked to such phrases as, “moments collide. That doesn’t make momentum” and “swoon over anything you want to.” A large pile of paper, crumpled and discarded, lay to the side of Cabeen throughout the performance surrounding the audience with physical, spoken, and written language. Whether or not these three forms of communication were in agreement or in conversation wasn’t extremely important as Cabeen’s phonetic movement vocabulary captured the attention of all.

Ending the evening was Gravitas, performed by Karena Birk to a work composed by Chad McCullough and performed live by trumpeter Brian Chin. Cabeen’s stated intention was to have both dancer and musician out of breath by the end of the piece—a goal that was definitely reached through phrase work of never ending jumps and leaps. Birk brought grace, beauty, and a good set of lungs to the stage.

Catherine Cabeen and Company crafted four world premieres, all varying in intention and objective, answering their own separate challenges. The intelligently crafted works were passionately performed with a sense of dedication and clear articulation of technique. Cabeen’s dancers and collaborators are dedicated to the work so much so that you can feel it with every balance and leap, and strum of the oud. Those looking to be inspired to get to dance class, wondering what new boundary to push in choreography, or wanting to see some spectacular bodies truly moving, should not miss Hyphen 2012or any future works by Catherine Cabeen and Company. Hyphen 2012 continues this evening, Saturday, March 24, 2012 at VelocityDanceCenter. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets.