Few things in life are genuinely unexplainable. One of those is undoubtedly modern dance.
You may not make a habit of visiting intimate black box theaters to see premieres by small, relatively unknown, modern dance troupes. As a result, the mental acrobatics required to make sense of their odd company names and eclectic costume choices may leave you boggled.
Rest assured this feeling is widespread. I would dare to speculate that one of the most frequent complaints uttered by a modern dance viewer is: “I just didn’t get it!”
If there is one piece of advice I can give you before going to see DancEthos’s new production, it is this: do not expect to get it. By adjusting your expectations, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration. You may even gain a new appreciation for what you witness onstage.
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An an organization, DancEthos dedicates its resources to presenting a range of works by various modern choreographers. For this year’s Capital Fringe Festival, the company is bringing an assortment of five short contemporary works to the makeshift stage in the basement of Saint Matthew’s Lutheran Church.
The program includes three pieces by guest artists: “Absurdist Suites” by Erica Rebollar, “two syllable words” by Mat Elder, and “Wren Print Cess (Select Excerpts)” by Sarah Beth Oppenheim. Following these short interludes—distinguished by varying degrees of movement and stillness—are two new works by DancEthos’s Founding Artistic Director, Tiffany Haughn.
Each sports delightful moments as well as glaring difficulties. A performance like this requires a bit of patience to pick out the richness that makes modern dance worth watching.
DancEthos closes July 27, 2019 at Capital Fringe 2019. Details and tickets
I like to call this subtle richness—these tiny moments where finally something resonates—as ‘Aha!’ moments. If you are patient and take the time to look, DancEthos’s lineup is full of them!
In Rebollar’s “Absurdist Suites,” between jubilant singing and vicious face slapping, I wondered to myself, ‘what on earth is happening?’ But then Jenny T. Flemingloss flashed a smug, unadulterated grin from center stage, and I could not help but smile. Something unexplainable clicked, and I had to appreciate the moment.
Later on, Elder’s “two syllable words” appeared a bit disconnected, since there were so many elements. A moving subway projection, the sounds of dripping water, a soloist facing backward, and a quick-moving trio all vied for attention. But I gave it time, and eventually noticed the way the soloist’s gestures seemed to resemble opening a door. I noticed the way the trio suspended specific movements before speeding back up again. I saw how the subway kept moving in a continual loop and felt this undeniable sense of waiting. That is when I said, “Aha!”
These moments continue to appear within the chaos of “Wren Print Cess,” amidst the careful partner work in Haughn’s new duet, “Bite Your Tongue,” and through the simplistic way dancers orbit one another in Haughn’s group piece, “As You Are.”
With five mini spectacles, this show provides ample opportunity to enjoy the beauty, complexity, and absurdity which arises from the elusive question mark that is modern dance.
DancEthos . Choreographers: Mat Elder, Tiffany Haughn, Sarah Beth Oppenheim, Erica Rebollar . Directed by Tiffany Haughn . Featuring:Elizabeth Barton, Jenny T. Flemingloss, Kourtney Ginn, Colleen Hutchings, Emilia Kawashima, Alison McReynolds, Jane Rabinovitz, Vanessa Rowan, Catherine Van Ness, Donnie Walker . Reviewed by Arielle Ostry.
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