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Another Stellar 12 Minutes Max

On the Boards’ second 12 Minutes Max of the season, curated by Jim Kent and Kia Pierce, offered another full, engaging evening of dance and theater. With eight works on the program, on the longer side for 12MM, Kent and Pierce’s smart curatorial choices kept the evening flowing, the different pieces stimulating rather than overwhelming.

When the theater opened to the audience, the dancers of Anna Connor + CO were already dancing Excerpt from Luna. The three women walked slowly through the stage, sometimes kneeling, watching, administering a kiss that seemed both tender and sinister, or gathering into slow sustained unison movement. It was fascinating not only to watch them, but to watch the contrast between them and the usual activity of an audience settling in, negotiating for seats in a sold-out theater, getting drinks, greeting friends, and so on.

Anna Connor + Co in Excerpt from Luna
Photo by Tim Summers

The lights going out signaled the official start to the show, and when they came back up, the three were standing in a wide, huge stance, knees deeply bent, circling their ribcages repeatedly as they stared out with strong, confident gazes. The material of the work that followed has been seen before, such as at the most recent BOOST dance festival, and it only improves on repeated viewing. Simple, but punishingly difficult, movements are repeated over and over; one of the strengths of Connor’s work is that she keeps the repetition going long enough that it goes from predictable to suspenseful, as one wonders how long they will go, and what will happen next. Much of the dance is in unison, whether slow and intense, or wildly frenetic, and the dancers’ unity speaks not only to many hours in the rehearsal studio, but also impressive sensitivity and community feeling on the part of each individual. Ambiguous relationships are suggested: at one moment, they are a tightly knit community; at another, partners in duets that could be intimate are instead alienated from each other or even antagonistic. The piece gives one interesting things to contemplate about femininity, strength, endurance, and relationships.

Eleanor Withrow in Measured
Photo by Tim Summers

Measured, choreographed and performed by Eleanor Withrow, was described as a solo ”that depicts the struggle of body image…evoking what it means to become more comfortable with one’s self and less affected by outside influences.” Withrow started in a hoodie over a tee shirt, and sweat pants, dancing, but interrupting herself with pushing and pulling at different parts of her body and costume, as if trying to get rid of it. She took off the hoodie, and then one could see the narrow elastic band that wrapped around her arm and disappeared under her tshirt. She disentangled her arm from the elastic, and used it as the element to push against with her arms and leg. Shedding the rest of her costume, down to bra and underwear, she struggled her way out of the elastic that wrapped around her body many times, and as she stood, finally free, the lights went down. Her performance was obviously heartfelt, and its message is an important one, both in the dance world, and in society at large. In an irony that points out the importance of her message of finding freedom and comfort in one’s body, Withrow did not yet seem as fully confident about moving her body and letting it take up space as she is arguing one should be.

Melanie Verna in Old Time Tumbler
Photo by Tim Summers

Melanie Verna made her 12MM debut in her own choreography of Old Time Tumbler. Set to an old-time radio suspense drama, with additional sound augmentation by Charlie Glib, Verna danced what was sometimes an acting out, sometimes a commentary on, the radio story about a serial killer. She has a keen eye for the striking image, which she put to brilliant use when the lights came up on her, facing upstage, with a plain white mask on the back of her head. She moved as if her back were the front, waggling her head and addressing the mask to the audience as if it were delivering the accompanying radio story, but with a disturbing yet funny frenetic energy. Her dancing pulled out all the stops; she can go from beautifully clean, classically balletic lines to bizarre, contorted quirky twitchiness in a blink. Her talent for the odd often brought the audience to laughter. Yet, with the gruesome story of violence and suspense that was the soundtrack, one was left wondering: was this creepily humorous, or humorously creepy?

Erica Badgeley and Markeith Wiley in One-Body-Two-Body
Photo by Tim Summers

Erica Badgeley and Markeith Wiley performed One-Body-Two-Body, which Badgeley choreographed in collaboration with Wiley. It was described as a piece that “takes into account two bodies in space. Two bodies listening, adjusting, transforming; two bodies combining and colliding efforts as two bodies alienate and coalesce.” This slightly dry description does not begin to convey the playfulness, competitiveness, friendship, and delight in movement that was One-Body-Two-Body. Badgeley and Wiley started against the upstage wall, first with glances, then nudges, egging each other on. They squished up sitting next to each other, casually, then casually trying to conceal that they were trying to push the other over. What followed seemed like the natural outgrowth of a game of “my hand’s on top” “no, my hand’s on top” played by two incredibly talented dancers. They burst through space, playing with trying to surprise the other with when their cooperation with the game (or lift, or counterbalance) would end. Smooth partnering, or unison dancing, would end with a playful removal of support or a surprise demand to be supported, all with an “I dare you” kind of insouciance. It was a heart-warming portrayal of the delights of dance and friendship that ended way too soon.

The remaining 12MM of the season will be in February, March, and May, at On the Boards’ old home, Washington Hall. If you haven’t yet made it to a 12MM, put it on your calendar, and line up early. 12 MM typically sells out, for good reason.