LA fusion dance troupe MashUp Contemporary Dance Company spices up Gala Theater with Inanimate Thoughts, an hour-long showcase of choreographed power, precision, and artistry set to an eclectic, electro-tinged score.
Led by directors and choreographers Victoria Brown and Sarah Rodenhouse, the stacked roster of skilled dancers sets out to explore touchstones of human emotion and experience, while imagining an existence as objects without such feelings.
Fluid in motion and hazy in narrative, the showcase revolves quickly between vague themes including loss, entrapment, love, melancholy, joy, and unity. Some numbers offer lyrical and musical insight into the choreographer’s intentions, while others play it a bit closer to the vest, leaving the audience to speculate on the creator’s thought process. The show is a bit like a Mark Rothko painting: Strong emotions and bold strokes without explicit meaning. After a few minutes, careful interpretation takes a backseat to simple appreciation of the dancing talent filling the stage.
The dancers come from varying backgrounds in modern, ballet, hip-hop, and jazz, comprising a diverse mosaic of talent. Graceful pirouettes share the stage with precise locking and intricate footwork in a melting pot of movement. Certain dancers, including steely-eyed Ashley Rogers and statuesque Kristen Kelker, assert themselves through raw intensity and strength. Meanwhile, other company members, like the smooth Emily Brown and Katie Baines, rely on fluid movement and remarkable body control to tell their own visual stories.
The genre-spanning soundtrack bridges a wide range of emotion. The electronic influence in the score is appropriate given the genre’s blending of human voice and computerized noise. Pensive melodies like James Blake’s piano-driven “Limit to Your Love” segue into aggressive, machine dubstep by the likes of Glitch Mob, which gives way to the atmospheric R&B of The Weeknd.
Midway through, an acoustic guitar interlude by the likeable Ian Rodenhouse breaks up the flow of heavily produced tracks. Other than that curious, albeit enjoyable, musical non sequitur, the soundtrack flows organically, like the playlist at a very chill party.
The carefully orchestrated costumes, set and lighting design work in concert to establish a cohesive theme for each segment. The melancholy opening number “I’ll Drown” features deep blue fabrics and cool gels, while “The Night” uses fierce gold and bright backlighting to flesh out Zola Jesus’ haunting, pounding melody.
The show is not without a few hiccups. In terms of the promised “multi media”, there’s not a whole lot there outside of the soundtrack and a quick opening movie. Some technical glitches also hamstring the production between numbers, breaking the illusion briefly before the dancers reappear.
The surface issues can’t do much to diminish the strong core of incredible dancing by this very talented troupe from the Sunshine State. These ladies leave their heart onstage in every number, radiating pure joy and from their fingertips and hair in every leap, twist, and roll. Inanimate Thoughts is an inspiring, outside-the-box production and a worthy final stop on your Capital Fringe journey.
Inanimate Thoughts has 4 performances, ending July 29th at Gala Theatre, located at 333 14th Street NW, Washington DC.
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Ben rates this 4 out of a possible 5.
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