Penelope Freeh

Before I Leave

Posted by on Jul 09 2015, in Uncategorized

I leave soon for my annual two-week teaching gig at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in beautiful Michigan national forest. I have a heavy roster of teaching, I get to choreograph on the Dance Ensemble for which I’ve arranged live piano accompaniment, I will spend time at Lake Michigan (salt-less but like an ocean just the same), and I will contemplate the three new works I am in the middle of making for my November show. With all this on the docket I will miss both weekends of Momentum, so I was pleased to get permission to see the dress rehearsal last night of the first-weekend line-up at The Southern.


I leave town with inspiration in my suitcase. There’s nothing like seeing brand new work to set me thinking about making dances. Plus there’s something special about dress rehearsals; I wish all shows could feel that fresh and privileged.


First up was the duo Hiponymous (Renee Copeland and Genevieve Muench) with State of the Moon Address. These collaborators are perfectly paired, highly attuned to their own and one another’s dancing. They each bring unique qualities to bear that to see them in tandem is more like seeing them exponentially. They abound with quirky, well-danced intelligence.


This work was fascinating and quite riveting at times. I went with them for the whole ride and particularly loved the very beginning and the very end. Along the way was a bumpy, trippy landscape of jaunty work and serious fun, laced with social commentary that never took over. Their engagement with the world they created was put forward, and that was as it should be.


There were exuberant dance passages that unabashedly brought me into their relationship, both onstage and off. Their comfort with and trust in one another came shining through and allowed for a settling in, even though the work is brand new. There were sloppy times, deliberately so, that usually were about exposition and advancing their scenario. Rearrangements of objects sometimes took precedence over dancerly-ness, while maintaining specific states of being.


The work was thoughtful, utterly original and bore the marks of having been created over a good long time. The sound design by Kalen Keir and Tom Woodling supported the work well.


Next was Luke Olson-Elm’s Broken, a dance for six. I very much enjoyed this work too, with its cool, melancholy tone. Clad in grey and white, the absence of color both reflected the mood and made of a clean palette against which to view the movement.


The vocabulary blended styles: extreme contemporary ballet with hip-hop-like impulses. It was leggy, lowdown and extremely articulate in the spine. One of my favorite passages was when Olson-Elm, alone onstage, traversed the vertical plane via deep plies and spine/pelvis contractions while obscurely gesturing. One by one the other performers entered, all on their own timing but ticking through the same order of events. It was a poignant, sad moment, all those people getting the rug pulled out from under them time and again, without actually falling down.


I very much enjoyed the dancing diversity here. Two Zenon dancers and four independents made for a fascinating display of differing movement motivations and body textures. Olson-Elm projects a fluid, no bones quality that amplifies when coupled with Sarah Steichen’s controlled muscularity. To watch them do the exact same phrase is like eating apples and oranges. They are incomparable and both great on a hot summer day.


I thought the transitions were especially good, the holdover of a dancer while others exited and a new crop entered, creating a new scene. Two lamps hanging upstage, one on each side, were put to good effect. The lighting in general, by Heidi Eckwall, was outstanding. For this work it served as scenery, altering environments and defining spaces.


I appreciated the unabashed sincerity of this work. It goes to show that when a dancemaker digs deep, truth rings out. I want to live up to that and I appreciate the reminder.