The 4th Annual Collaborations in Dance Festival
Triskelion Arts Center
August 17, 2012
By Martha Sherman
Copyright © 2012 by Martha Sherman
On reading the description of Triskelion’s 4th Annual Collaboration in Dance Festival, my companion asked, “Aren’t all dances collaborations?” In the seven short performances on Friday, the best collaboration was a familiar one between dancers and live musicians; the others included equally familiar connections to film or narrated scripts and props. The collaborations in these pieces didn’t seem much more offbeat or noteworthy than most live dance performances; but the performers seemed to be having a good time – and the audience went right along with them.
The best of this assemblage was Lindsey Mandolini’s “Dead Denim,” which was performed by a cast of six who were joined onstage by the excellent rock duo with an even better name, Teen Commandments. ”Dead Denim” seemed like casual scenes that we eavesdropped on, as if watching a tight group of friends at a hot new club. The collaboration was front and center: not only were the dancers engaged in each others’ movement, but the dance and live music wove together organically, feeding on the energy of the other. The musicians created a throbbing score so danceable it was hard for the audience not to join in. The keyboard wailed, and Nick LaGrasta’s clear guitar line and solo vocalist Brett Moses offered enough drama to balance the winning movement ensemble.
To the band’s opening beat, Benjamin Freedman danced in a spot-lit pool, as the rest of the troupe hovered upstage. Freedman’s knees melted, body contorted, and arms swooped overhead in movement that tilted and tipped him. His graceful balance held, despite several challenges to gravity. When he joined the five other dancers, this group of friends sauntered down the stage and preened, twitching their shoulders and hips like the coolest kids in a crowd, then shifted into pairs and trios of parallel movement. In the funniest scene, the dancers moved downstage looking at the audience as if in a long mirror; each did some private grooming – sniffing their underarms, picking their teeth. The ending, with Freedman again swirling in the spotlight was more symmetrical than needed; the sassy piece could have used a more memorable ending.
The other ensemble piece was Rebecca Hite/Reject Dance Theatre’s “The Tale,” a funny, well-danced piece, with a story about a strange book that seemed to come alive in its reader’s telling. The script was too cute to do justice to its claim of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater as inspiration. Actor-narrator Alex Teicheira led us into the bland “tale” in which dancers morphed into animals. The first dancer did a languorous solo seen from the back and danced against a video of trees with a drumbeat and exotic violin score. Wearing layers of colored tulle, the rest of the dancers moved through increasingly animalistic scenes, often in a simple diagonal line across the stage. They pranced, then offered paws and mimed bites; finally, they entered with animal masks, as Teicheira’s telling of his story got increasingly frantic (a voiceover mumbled “Jabberwocky,”) and the dancers finally fed on his body as the lights faded.
In another animalistic feeding frenzy, the trio of Amy Cova Dance in “Brother Mary’s Melba: A Tribute,” made more connection to melba than to Mary (Typhoid Mary, according to program notes.) Doll-like dancers stalked and wiggled toward each other, backed by an animated video. The dancers moved frantically through the audience handing out desserts – the peach melba of the title. As the audience warily ate their sweets, the dancers morphed into amphibious, creeping creatures. When they collected the remaining peach melba, they dumped it into a large bowl, and, vampire-like, leaned in to lick the leftovers in a funny, gross image.
Two other duets rounded out the evening, as well as an impressive solo, “In Memory of Hope,” danced by Danah Bella (who was credited with “improvography.”) Bella was accompanied by John Priestley, a musician who sat on the floor and created the score with a violin bow, bowls, a drum, and a cymbal. Dancing on a large square of white flooring, Bella created dance poses and movement wrapped in a large swath of red cloth that floated and shifted with her movement. Moving around the white inner stage, another collaborator, Liz Canfield, recited a text so quietly that it couldn’t be understood; though the dance and music were compelling, the text was entirely lost.
In addition to the dance works, several chapters of Joel Garland’s winning video installation played as each set was broken and replaced for the next piece. Garland’s fish eye lens on playgrounds and street scenes turned a cityscape into a kaleidoscope of color and line, including a mesmerizing view of the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge rounded by the lens into new symmetries.
Some of the pieces in this buffet of work were more successful than others, but each element had the potential to illuminate and enrich the whole, a reminder of the texture and complexity of the collaborations in live performance. The best of Triskelion’s collaborations were fine examples that it does take two to tango.
copyright © 2012 by Martha Sherman
Photo: Rebecca Hite/Reject Dance Theatre in “The Tale” by Jon Crispin