For one week only twenty-five participants gather from all over the world in Takoma Park, Maryland to dance. They’ve traveled from as far as South Africa and England to create Language from the Land: an intergenerational dance fusion of time, place and people created from the 2012 Summer Institute at Dance Exchange.
The performance also includes participation from three resident artists at Dance Exchange. Dance Exchange, the dance company located in Takoma Park, Maryland is a community-based studio that was founded in 1976 by Liz Lerman.
The 50-minute performance opens with resident artist Sarah Levitt relating to a small wooden chair. The chair has a constant presence throughout Language From The Land. What the chair represents is entirely open to interpretation. Levitt’s own relationship to the chair changes over the course of the performance, as the inanimate object draws seemingly dark memories out of her.
The dancers themselves are a sight to see. The individuals range in shape, size, age, sex and color. This is a compelling component to the piece that reflects the variety in which humans of every kind move. The dancers are dressed in earth tones that reflect the stories they hint at of the natural world.
The theme of language arises materially in the form of books that fill the stage throughout the performance. Books as objects of reflection feel very appropriate in the context of the show. The title alone Language From The Land has you questioning the source of the language that is shared amongst the dancers as they take turns reading passages from the books on stage.
The bulk of the performance teeters between group-based movement and solos. The movement inspires melancholy and also moments of epiphany but the most engaging segment is when Levitt and fellow resident artist Shula Strassfeld fall into sync.
Levitt and Strassfeld return to the small chair fighting over its domain. They each take turns sitting on the chair and at one point Strassfeld flips through book after book on the chair while Levitt proceeds to knock them out of her hands. The segment crescendos when Levitt and Strassfeld are interlocked on the small chair together signifying a strong level of healing. Their dynamic on stage brings the performance together and creates a fulfilling connection between the dancers and the objects on the stage.
The magic of the performance is the sheer fact that twenty-eight strangers came together over the course of the week to create this piece. If you are a lover of movement and appreciate spontaneous art this piece will get your juices going. Bibliophiles may also find resonance with the props used to light the way. But, be prepared to think and feel. This is not art handed to you on a platter. It is out there, begging for question and discussion and inspiring movement simultaneously.
The Language of the Land had 2 performances, ending Jul 15, 2012, at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC
Breena rates this 3 out of a possible 5.