It was incredibly refreshing to watch the well-trained, well-rehearsed dancers of Bowen McCauley Dance in From the Ground Up. This was definitely not amateur hour. The company, based in Arlington, is the brainchild of Lucy Bowen McCauley, a veteran of a variety of ballet and modern groups, brings an airy, lyrical quality to modern dance.
The 30-minute program was composed of two short, repertory-style pieces that were very different in tone. The first, “Fire and Air,” was inspired by Cleopatra’s death scene in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.
The choreography here was a little too literal for my taste. Cleopatra (Lucy Bowen McCauley herself) danced with her two attendants (Iris Andersen and Alicia Curtis) as they present her a basket containing a snake-print scarf meant to represent the deadly asp. Meanwhile, Mark Antony (Alvaro Palau) danced upstage, alone and inaccessible.
The piece heated up when Cleopatra’s attendants removed Cleopatra’s too-ornate Egyptian throne and left the stage. When Lucy Bowen McCauley and Mark Anthony had the stage to themselves, it was a delight to watch the two expert dancers work together.
Bowen McCauley Dance presents: From the Ground Up
conceived by Lucy Bowen McCauley
at GALA Theatre at Tivoli Square
3333 14th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20010
Each location had its own original composition by Austrian composer Wolfgang Seierl. The music featured intense drumbeats, electronic melodic notes that recall an old-school Moog Synthesizer, and heavy sampling of found recordings of what sounded like items rattling in boxes and ripping tape. The most clever section of the piece was when the projection showed McCauley dancing in a stairway, and the ensemble danced in the aisles of the theater. The dancers were quite literally right next to me, and I could see their straining muscles and the beads of sweat on their skin. It was a beautiful way to invite the audience into the work by seeing the dancers’ effort up close.
I had the impression that the second piece, “Afoot in Vienna,” was what the group really wanted to perform, but (correctly) assumed that it would be too short for a fringe show, and added “Fire and Air” to increase the run time to 30 minutes. It gave the show an almost tentative quality, as though the company wasn’t too sure about this whole Fringe thing, but they were going to test the waters and see how it goes. I would have really liked to see a third piece on the program so that I could see more of what these dancers could do.