I’ll be honest: I’m not usually a fan of interpretive dance. Most of the time, it’s nearly impossible for me to tell what’s being interpreted without having read it in the guide, which means that even if it’s aesthetically pleasing, it often feels random.
But I walked out of the theater after seeing Concrete Devotion and said to myself, “hey, I not only understood that but I liked everything about it.” And that gives me enough confidence to highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of the genre and wouldn’t normally spend the cost of a fringe ticket on a dance show, you should make an exception here.
The company, Motion X Dance DC, says that its mission is to “share innovative and thought provoking dance works.” Mission accomplished. The entirety of the 60 minute show consists of three scenes: two shorter segments, followed by the lead feature. It’s a shame that these shorter segments aren’t billed more highly, because they’re such a big part of what makes the whole performance enjoyable.
Kindred, which leads off the performance, tells the story of a person with a progressing disease, with the rest of the ensemble assuming the role of the surrounding community coming together to offer support and sympathy. It’s sad, wistful, and uplifting all in one. The sparse lighting and ethereal music serve as an ideal complement to an elegant and emotional physical routine.
The second short segment, It’s on Her, was, for me the best part of the night. It deals with the difficult subject of a person struggling with mental illness and its effect on friends and family. In contrast to the lyrical and graceful choreography of “Kindred,” “It’s on her” is more jarring, aggressive and angular in its music and routines. As a conceit, it uses a masked puppet with a long, thin shroud to symbolize the idea of mental illness. It depicts it as a character that is at one level separate but not independent.
Produced by Motion X Dance DC
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The aesthetic is reminiscent of something one might see in the spirit world of Hayao Miyazaki, and the effect of the lead performer and the surrounding cast struggling with the mask is no less affecting. It’s strange to say that a dance routine can challenge you to think about mental illness in a different way, but that’s what this piece does.
In true Hegelian fashion, the feature performance seems to combine and synthesize the emotions, sentiments and contrasts of the introductory routines. It narrates the breakdown of a seemingly happy relationship from the strain of career ambition and work obligations. Here, the story is told not just through dance, but with an added video backdrop that shows the dancers seeming to lie down on floors or walk on walls. It has an off-kilter feel that accentuates the story being told on stage. Ultimately, the transition from happiness to conflict to the hope of reconciliation is predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable: the wider range of attitudes in the piece allow the dancers to evoke a wider, more complex range of feelings with their movements.
And it’s not just the concept—the execution is excellent as well. I’ve seen a handful of dance shows at Fringe over the past few years, and, to put it kindly, the quality can be hit-or-miss. But here, the performers move with ease and grace, and for the most part, the ensemble is in sync with the choreography and with each other, without any obvious weak link. Bottom line?
Motion X Dance DC knows what they’re doing, and they’ve put on a show that deserves to be seen. It’s unfortunate that there are only three total performances of Concrete Devotion during Fringe. Here’s hoping it comes back for an encore.
Concrete Devotion . Choreographer: Stephanie Dorrycott (feature work), Lauren Carnesi, & Sammi Rosenfeld . Composer: Scott Morgan (Loscil) . Chief Creative Mind: Stephanie Dorrycott . Produced by Motion X Dance DC . Reviewed by Dante Atkins.