Dance and art

40th Anniversary of Island Moving Company

Veterans Memorial Theatre, Providence, RI.
March 11, 2022.

Thunderous music and moving dance resonating in your flesh and bones: nothing like it. It can envelop you and overwhelm you. It's entertainment. That word may have a negative connotation (over the top, cheap, sweet) - but spectacle can be measured and wise, carefully constructed and presented. It was the kind of thoughtful extravagance that Island Moving Company (IMC) presented for its 40e Anniversary Gala Master movers.

Forty years of creating and sharing art is certainly something to celebrate, and a show of excellence is a great way to do it. Perhaps it is also what we all need right now: something beautiful, something serious, something unifying. Nicolo Fonte Where we stopped and a modern reinvention of Carl Orff Carmina Burana (from BMI Artistic Director Miki Ohlsen, BMI Associate Artistic Director Danielle Genest and Dr. Joshua D. Rhode) made up this celebratory program.

Fonte's work (with director Tom Mossbrucker's contribution) projected the program as a canon: dynamic, exciting, filled with a multiplicity of possibilities. At the same time, threads of repeated movement and ways in which the dancers connected ran through the work. These were undercurrents that maintained a foundation of connection and understanding.

The work began with one dancer, then one by one others joined: an accumulation and evolution that laid the foundation for what was to come. After the set of 10 accumulated, the dancers moved into a dynamic group section. The movement reached a difficult trifecta: fast, detailed and technique. Impressively, the dancers met this trifecta challenge with an embodiment of ease and integration. They even seemed to relish it.

The ensemble also danced with grandeur but also enticing refinement (not at all easy to do). The face changes in the space and the unconventional paths through the body kept everyone guessing what choices might come next, but I wanted to know. The clear geometry of the form - lines, arc paths, clear facings - met serpentine moments to create dynamic contrast and full possibility. It all created a movement that was a treat to experience.

In another fascinating duality, the dancers diverged and converged: diving in and out, together and apart in the stage space. These choices illustrated the dance of human connection, the way we meet and miss each other. "Where we left off," indeed - where we last found ourselves and how we continue to search for that place.

Enhancing this effect was the way the dancers almost seemed to glow against a much darker background, the lighting (by Seah Jonson) shining on pearly white costumes (by Mark Zappone, courtesy of Aspen Sante Fe Ballet). I assumed that the lighting of the wings helped create this effect (a bit of realism behind the magic), but it spoke to me of the dynamism of a soul - how we all bring our own energy to whatever environment we move through, bright or dark .

After this vigorous ensemble section, the work moved into smaller, quieter but still lively solos, duets, and trios, and small groups (below full ensemble). The performers demonstrated a real tacit understanding, in and through each other's bodies, as they performed (what seemed to me to be) quite difficult elevators, shapes, and paths through the stage space. They also illustrated a vital understanding of "less is more" in those quieter moments: giving yourself to 150% for the work, but also letting it speak for itself and be all that it is. Sometimes that's all it takes.

A memorably beautiful choreography met this commission and commitment of the performers to let something deeper shine through: this dance of human interaction, meeting and missing each other, in multiple ways and with a myriad of people we encounter in life. Small chapters of interaction, with these various groupings, glued together to tell such a large story.

To finish the work, a dancer outside the group slowly settled into the floor - in a way that spoke of a weight on her. I wanted to think about how through this whole dance of human interaction, we can only really know our experience. That's maybe the most exciting part: going in and out of connection and continuing to seek to understand each other. And the dazzling dance is a great way to illustrate this experience.

The second act brought Carmina BuranaThe show was even more memorable than the first act (and that's an understatement). It brought together full-bodied live music, charming design, and the stellar dance artistry that IMC never fails to offer - all in all something to stir the heart and delight the senses.

Also like the first act, the work came out with a real clickA large ensemble embodying the grandeur and high energy of the musicians on stage (members of the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra). A small group followed this large ensemble, but they kept that grandeur and high energy. Even smaller groups followed - solos, duets, trios, quartets, etc. - all together offering a wide emotional and qualitative palette. The robust music joined the movement to ricochet all along me. I was immersed, as only a well-crafted performance can immerse.

These dance vignettes also felt aligned with the short stanzas of the Carmina Burana poetry (included in the paper program) - or, one would dream, like the petals of a rose. The movement itself offered the smoothness and ingenuity of the classical vocabulary that IMC does so well - and in this work, the gesture and the ways in which the dancers connected (on a body level and in space, through formations) brought a unique level of drama and deep feeling. . Honorable mentions to Emily Baker and Brooke DiFrancesco's memorable solos, danced in a way that offered the best of their art.

Throughout, costumes (by Eileen Stoops) and lighting (by John Boomer) were in the deep reds and earth tones of roses and precious romantic flower gardens - complementing a video of large roses, projected on glass panels far above the stage (behind the musicians, video and programming designer by SooA Kim, and scenic design by Chen-Wei Liao).

Together, these conceptions created an undercurrent of romantic classicism, the genre inherent in Carl Olff's 1935-36 composition (played live by the musicians on stage in this performance) and the medieval monk poems on which the composition was based. The flowers also made me think of spring: the literal spring just around the corner, but also perhaps (touch wood) the spring after the winter of COVID.

At the same time, some of the choices were surprisingly modern, even postmodern. Men were lifting men in some sections. They had incredible strength, but also demonstrated a gentle receptivity to the instantaneous physics of each other's bodies and pathways of movement. I welcomed this willingness, and some might even say courage, to subvert the conventions of strict gender roles in concert dance.

The all-male partnership also made me think of the brotherhood of monks, the monks who wrote the Carmina Burana poems. Some things may seem radical, because of the customs of the world we live in, but are in fact timeless.

The dancers also interacted with the musicians at other times, often in playful ways: lifting one of the opera soloists, joyfully elevating conductor Dr. Rohde, tender interactions with various singers and orchestra members. When she introduced the work at the beginning of the act, Ohlsen explained how she and her collaborators wanted to create something that brought this seminal score into modern times. With an obvious respect for classicism but also boldly modern creative choices - a mix that also simply worked all together - this reviewer believes they succeeded, to quite a moving and memorable effect.

There was also so much richness in the interactions of the performers: so many little moments to say a thousand words. In another sense, everything was just beautiful - and that's enough too. We can feel uprooted and ungrounded in these times, and deep reflection can help us feel a greater sense of understanding. At other times, our weary hearts could simply use the beauty and a sense of vibrant celebration. Even in difficult times, there is can be things to celebrate - like forty years of an artistic organization, and still going strong.

This program offered all of that - and is not one to be forgotten anytime soon. Thank you, IMC, for offering everything a given audience member could aspire to (even if they didn't know they aspired). It matters. Here's to 40 years of creating and sharing!

By Kathryn Boland of Information on dance.

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