Alexandra Schools’ Perception, premiering with MoCo Dance Alliance in the Capital Fringe festival, was inspired by an encounter with the senses. Two years ago, Schools’ parents were host family for a young deaf man new to the area. That prompted Schools to think about how our senses inform both action and reaction and, in particular, how reactions influence who we are. It’s a concept with substance, and a neat fit for exploration in dance.
Schools is a true DC dancer. She began her training with Michael Bjerknes at American Dance Institute (ADI) in Rockville and then studied with Patricia Barrends (formerly of the School of the Washington Ballet) before pursuing a Dance degree in college at Virginia Commonwealth University. Armed with her BFA, Schools returned to the area in 2015 to found MoCo Dance Alliance, and she currently manages one of the Joy of Motion studios.
Perception is split into the sections Unheard, Unseen, and Untouched, laced together with Curious, and Courage and Fear. Schools’ dancers, Andrea D’Annunzio, Jamie Doughty, Shaila Isham, Brynna Shank, and Tiffani Thomas, each brought strengths to the material but among them Shaila Isham stood out for a particularly even and appealing tone, and range.
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During Unseen, dancers in black leotards with masks covering their eyes repeat a swiping motion of one hand past the front of their own eyes. The motion suggests the dancers inability to see, and also the loss of sight. Schools’ avoids the cheap choreographic devices that limit the appeal of many young choreographers, but competence is just a beginning.
In Unseen in particular it felt like there were more complicated depths available for exploration, more intimate understandings available for reveal. The composition is smooth and in places inventive but does it reveal deeper truths? You’ll have to experience it for yourself.
Perception by MoCo Dance Alliance . Choreographer / Director: Alexandra Schools . Cast: Tiffani Thomas, Jamie Doughty, Andrea D’Annunzio, and Shaila Isham . Reviewed by Robert Bettman.