Without words, Shakespearean sonnets come to life in choreographer Alice Howes’ riveting new show Dancing Ophelia. This modern dance marvel offers an updated interpretation of several classic works including Othello, Macbeth, and Taming of the Shrew. If you enjoy impactful choreography, Dancing Ophelia can’t be missed! The collaborative effort of Trajectory Dance Project allowed Shakespeare’s works to leap off the stage and connect to the audience in a fresh new way.
My favorite movements embraced fluid motions to convey emotionally driven sequences. “By Day My Limbs, By Night My Mind,” revealed the inner struggle of a weary woman as she attempts to find her inner peace. Alicia Williams utilizes staccato dance moves along with constant tossing and turning to emphasize her restless mind. The natural way, which the piece transpired, pulled me further into a very personal performance space.
Is it possible to present one of the most iconic Shakespearean pieces in an imaginative, new way? Absolutely. “Mad Women of Macbeth” was an incredible performance in two parts. Initially, Alice Howes appears as the haunting Lady Macbeth. Her depiction of torment with wickedly composed gestures was truly eerie. The concluding portion of the performance featured Valerie Branch, Christine Wyatt, and Alicia Williams. Spotlight captured each flawlessly coordinated sequence leaving me spellbound. The element of epic contortions, tumbling, and glorious gestures was magical.
Direction and Choreography: Alice Howes
Composers: Iva Bittova, Ensemble Galilei and Evelyn Glennie
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The marital woes of “Something Borrowed: Kate and Petruchio’s Wedding” were nuanced and completely unexpected. The bold neon green background coupled with an electronic dance music soundtrack offered an enlightened paradox to the simple costumes. Once the ballet-like choreography unfolds, we experience the many tumultuous moments of two feuding newlyweds. Will the loveless couple stay together or simply conform to the archetypal husband and wife we have come to expect? Featured performers Hai Do and Katrina Toews deliver an intensely climactic performance.
One true test of an amazing show lies in the ensemble’s ability to evoke extreme emotions during periods of stark silence. Trajectory Dance Project accomplished this without losing the audiences’ undivided attention in the process, and for that, I commend them.
While Shakespearean influence was an obvious theme, during the eight movements, lighting designer Austin Byrd effectively utilized several styles in order to elevate the emotionally impactful dances. Amber dim lighting during the first half of the show directly correlated with the inner workings of the mentally tormented characters. As each movement transpired, from the first to the last, I found myself excited to see lighting play such a pivotal role.
Evoking a wide range of emotions, the choreography was impeccable. With each leap, tumble, and hand gesture, Ms. Howes created a consistent flow of creativity throughout her body of work. Costumes were a crucial element in the execution of her vision. The free flowing muted tones of nature-inspired movements like “Spinning Straw” and “Emptiness Is All” allowed the audience to embrace the simplicities of life’s joys. Conversely, during movements like “Desdemona,” “Mad Women,” and “The Body Is Not An Apology”, black garments provided a foundation for the more intense dramatic moments of the show.
Dancing Ophelia offers a steady stream of inspired movements revealing how each role of the ensemble is essential to depict the unified theme. The dancers exposed the essence of their raw emotions devising remarkably engaging interpretations of Shakespearean characters.