Arts and Entertainment | Dance

CoLab performance packs a punch

CoLab promises a fun night out this weekend at the Diana Center’s Glicker-Milstein Black Box Theatre. The free evening is a collection of eight works that synthesize the dance genres of ballet, modern, aerial, swing, and hip hop with collaborative multimedia elements like theatre, film, and musical composition and performance.

As its name suggests, CoLab, or Collaboration of the Ludicrous and Beautiful, aims to provide an all-inclusive space to push the boundaries of technical aesthetics, adulterating the calculated with absurd experimentation. It values the creative process in hopes of achieving something greater than an ultimate goal.

Some produced beauty; others ludicrousness. Some left me wanting more. Others felt as if they were pure self-indulgent projects for the choreographer. And it is important to acknowledge that is ok. After all, that is what CoLab is about -- enabling choreographers to achieve their visions without constraints.

Kick-starting the ludicrous, "The Rock Show," a swing-influenced work set to the Blink 182 song of the same name, does not disappoint in being utterly ridiculous. Simply silly, the work’s essence made me reminisce on the care-free pre-teen days of angsty bands and name-brand obsession -- the latter recollection most likely influenced by coordinated outfits of hot pink tops, distressed-wash daisy dukes and flair jeans, and Keds that the dancers wear. Good? bad? Self-indulgent and just not my definition of fun.

Jaclyn Hoffman’s "Nightswimming" is the least experimental of the night but is arguably the best-executed piece of the night technically; her dancers are musical, precise, and clean. Hoffman’s predictable, lyrical piece to the delight of Ingrid Michaelson felt surprisingly unpredictable in context of the evening’s adventurous program. I would like to see more of Hoffman’s work; her top-notch aesthetic for formation, pattern, and rehearsal direction is evident. Nevertheless, her vision for this piece did not mix well with the spirits of the evening.

Garnet Henderson’s "Shoulder Pads/Black Friday/The Best Song that Amy Winehouse Ever Recorded/Diana Ross, but Not in Her Awful 70s Disco Phase" is a fanciful dance-theatre work expressing a message of feeling opposite of the norm. Wearing brown romper-like costumes, her dancers stomp from stage left to stage right and back over and over and over and over again, gaining momentum in their velocities with time. They lead with their heads as if to suggest their stubborn nature while using their step to construct a tense tone with each resonating slam. Mimicking their collective movement, white-costumed Henderson crosses right when they cross left. By the end of the piece, Hendersen’s character actualizes herself, emanating pride in her jazzed jumpy feature while the others wear the same, tame tutus. Henderson is a natural actress and her sense of theatricality transcends into her choreography. However, her communication felt muddled in this piece the more it evolved -- the more messages and elements it included.

After the opener, Katherine Bergstrom’s "Terpischore Loves Company" packs a powerful message. What initially falls short because of choreography that fails to communicate is redeemed by its theatre-infused dance in the later movements of the piece. In the second movement of the work, the girls conduct an interplay with words that mimic the choreography’s own moments of canon and unison. Monotonically-delivered phrases like “We weren’t made for the same road” and “I’m cold” echo, creating a beautiful harmony-line for the piece’s melodic choreography. Breath-taking arcs created by the dancers’ arms and a scene where a group of girls takes turns carrying another girl depict the idea of human vulnerability and the necessity for interdependency Bergstrom wanted to investigate.

A definitive highlight of the evening, Nicole Cerutti’s "#[re]vision" follows, exploring ideas of perception and recollection through videography and dance. Flashes of Cerutti executing the same choreography she performs on stage reflect the action and effect of recalling and restoring personal experience and present the situation of seeing the same thing from multiple angles and times. Choreographically, the brilliance of her piece centers around the deliberately varied timing between her videography and staging. Cerutti offers flow and power, release and control -- a dynamic performance.

Jack Crawford’s "Suite" was suspense in suspension. Defying gravity, Crawford is one with her fabric in her aerial dance work, knowing its ins and outs. She weaves herself, rotating her shapes like an efficient gear, and ultimately, at the end descending from the top to the bottom only to catch herself just feet before the ground without her hands. She is thrillingly exquisite, vividly illustrating that feeling of ephemeral rush in slow, poetic beauty.

These pieces seemed complete and rich, their choreographers fully realizing the opportunity CoLab offers them.

A different type of investigation, Lucia Elledge’s "Untitled" is a live experiment on stage, the concept being that using the motion sensing device, Kinect, information taken from Elledge’s movement is interpreted by a laptop which creates sound to match. The images Elledge creates are beautiful -- some of the most memorable in the show. The technology enables her to achieve the ideal that a dancer should strive to portray that her dancing produces its music rather than it being a secondary layer -- a long-standing ideal until recently thought to be impossible. I would like to see more of Elledge grounded in a choreographic (not technological) concept. It was experimental, but not enough. It was a self-indulgent project that gave her a beautiful foundation on which I would like to see more built.

CoLab concluded its program with one of its strongest pieces of the evening -- one that aligned more closely with my definition of pure fun. Kambi Gathesha in collaboration with Nehemiah Loury produced a celebratory hip-hop and breaking medley of raw energy. In the end breaking the fourth wall, "Sing it Loud" invites you to engage more closely with CoLab’s art and celebrate its achievement at the end, (or beginning), of your night. Fully embracing the inclusivity and collaboration that is so integral to CoLab, a party is made out of the evening. It experimented and reveled in its absurdities, producing a gratifying experience that is as much for the audience as it has been for the dancers.

CoLab will take place at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Diana Black Box.

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