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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moving Collective Offers “Accessible and Thought Provoking” Modern Dance Experience


Stories Gathered postcard

Stories Gathered

Moving Collective Dance Company

By Kathi E. B. Ellis

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.

Moving Collective’s winter concert was at the Clifton Center on Saturday, February 23.  The theme was Stories Collected, and the concert featured two Moving Collective premieres, as well as the premiere of their first commissioned piece. In addition the program featured two guest groups, collectivo caliban and Alternative Movement Project, reflecting that the evening was about gathering together and sharing stories.

The strongest pieces of the evening were the commissioned Potters (seeds then wheats), choreographed by Rodney A. Brown; and Layers, choreographed by Moving Collective founder Teresa Bautista. Layers is a charming and quirky triptych of sketches about what happens when we cover ourselves in layers and/or strip ourselves of those layers – literal or metaphorical. It was clear that the Moving Collective dancers enjoyed this piece. Bundled in multiple layers of clothing, the dancers began the first section with elaborate mime of putting on clothes, and throughout this part the real clothes were swept off, ending with a human huddle at the top of which was a dancer leaning over the group with arched back – at which point a delighted chuckle went round the auditorium as it was revealed that her final layer was a pregnant belly. The second two movements explored the liberation that comes with no restraints. Potters (seeds then wheats) brought together Ms. Bautista with current Moving Collective co-producer Amanda Johnson and Nicole André, dancing together with an assuredness and connectedness that made this piece the core of the evening. Mr. Brown’s choreography combines a strong lyricism with angular accents that accentuated the physical contrasts of the three dancers.

The other Moving Collective piece, Rise, for which both music and choreography is somewhat coyly attributed to The Album Leaf, was an appropriate curtain-riser as all the dancers began lying on the floor. If this piece was collectively choreographed or improvised from the inspiration of the music, let the audience know! If the musician contributed to the movement, again, be transparent; such cross-discipline collaborations are of interest to those who support arts organizations. This slender two-part piece gives the Moving Collective an opportunity to showcase its dancers both as an ensemble and in multiple combinations of duets, trios and other smaller ensembles. In both this piece and in Layers, the company should seek a different convention than just a blackout between movements. Audience members were unsure of whether or not these pieces were finished or not, as there were multiple blackouts and "pauses" between each complete dance piece.

Alternative Movement Project, out of Minneapolis, contributed Darker Stage of Daylight and Lol-la-pa-LOO-za to the evening. Now in its third year, AMP is clearly a company that is very comfortable performing together, and it was refreshing to see more sophisticated production values for these pieces, a cohesive costume design, and lighting design to support the stories told. The trio of Megan Halsey, Jennifer Mack and Choulette Navarro in Daylight dances together with an ease borne of long-term colleagues. The larger AMP ensemble, in the second piece, also fills the stage with confidence. However, the choreography of both Ms. Howe and Ms. Lees is less than dynamic, and somewhat repetitive; and despite the extensive program notes I found little in the movement on stage to support the articulated themes.

Also joining Moving Collective is collective caliban. Placed in the program immediately following the short Rise, the performers took almost as long to set up the instruments and floor covering, and to carry on a chair, as their piece was to last; all of this was done in full view of an increasingly restive and somewhat amused audience. If the audience is to be privy to setting up a piece, then provide a change in lighting that makes this intentional; if not, closing the curtain signifies the need for a long set up period. In the Memory of Hope is listed in the program as having "improvography." The piece is comprised of a dancer, musician and poet. It is not entirely clear if all elements are improvised or if there is any set element. Setting dance to spoken word can be compelling – in part because we are acculturated to expect music. However, here it almost felt redundant; it was difficult to hear Ms. Canfield, and her circumlocutions of the dance space neither connected nor distanced her from danah bella (dancer and improvographer). Live music is always an advantage in dance performances, and John Priestley bowed metal bowls to create iterated and layered reverberations throughout the piece. danah bella has a compelling stage presence, which became the heart of a piece that is clearly of more significance to the performers than it is accessible to an audience.

In her program note, Ms. Johnson writes of Moving Collective’s goal to keep contemporary dance alive in Louisville. It is unfortunate that this intention is an ongoing struggle – as evidenced by the diminishment of The Kentucky Center’s modern dance programming over the years and by the number of local modern dance groups that have come and gone. Offering only one or two concerts a year (their next concert is in Lexington as part of the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts programming) makes it an additional challenge to garner followers who are not connected to the company through the dancers—which appeared to be the majority of Saturday’s audience. With choreographers like Ms. Bautista and Mr. Brown, Moving Collective offers Louisville audiences a modern dance experience that is both accessible and thought provoking. Their commitment to working with other modern dance organizations brings additional perspectives to Louisville audiences, and I look forward to seeing new and different collaborators at future concerts.

Stories Gathered

February 23, 2013

Moving Collective at
The Clifton Center
2117 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40206

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