Dance groups kindle choreography in progress

‘Mixed Company,’ last weekend’s show from Dance Company and INISH, presented works-in-progress at the ’62 Center. Above, ‘Surveillance,’ choreographed by Fhatarah Zinnamon ’11, showcased Dance Company’s ability to achieve a high-energy performance.
‘Mixed Company,’ last weekend’s show from Dance Company and INISH, presented works-in-progress at the ’62 Center. Above, ‘Surveillance,’ choreographed by Fhatarah Zinnamon ’11, showcased Dance Company’s ability to achieve a high-energy performance.

As any dance piece evolves from concept to performance, it goes through trials and changes, slowly taking shape as both dancers and choreographers test and change what they do, responding both to themselves and each other. With Mixed Company, the audience received the privilege of viewing these mid-evolution processes of two different forms of dance as they are pursued and performed on campus. Described in the pre-performance introduction by Dance Company artistic director Erica Dankmeyer and INISH artistic director Holly Silva as a show of “works in progress,” Mixed Company proved to be just that: insight into a collection of pieces at varying stages of incomplete choreographical conception and performance execution.

The program’s first half featured original works by Dance Company members, beginning with “Imposition,” a piece choreographed by Fhatarah Zinnamon ’11 and inspired by Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song.” Both “Imposition” and the next piece, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” featured fluid movements and pauses that highlighted the engaging choreography by freezing it in place. Unlike subsequent pieces, which were faster and often featured jumps as frequently as the first two featured moments of stillness, the works also highlighted some dancers’ shakiness, perhaps due to weak ankles or centers, or perhaps due simply to less practice than they might have before the performance of completed works.

Although set to the slower-paced Adele song “Hometown Glory,” “Braving Winter” came off as more acrobatic and energetic. Nicely complementing the emotion of the music, Brittany Baker-Brousseau ’11 and Kallan Wood ’10 infused their performances with a dramatic tone especially noticeable in their deliberate movements and in their emotional expressions. The choreography was a collection of varied, well-executed steps, with movements that went well with the music but at times resulted in choices that disrupted the piece’s overall coherence. In particular, steps from a fluid, balletic style to more acrobatic jumping would come together in some places and look like an abrupt transition in others.

The next piece, titled “Surveillance,” displayed a strong style that at times bordered on aggressive. After several more delicate pieces, this one sent a jolt of high energy onto the MainStage and out into the audience. The motion of the group, with demanding stomps and varied levels, served as a complement to Zinnamon’s strong solo, but one that left the impression of individual characters. If anything, the idiosyncrasies of the dancers’ personal styles, combined with their varied movements, made them seem occasionally out of step, although the overall effect was more interesting than the personality-free backgrounds that can result from over-polished choreography.

Dance Company continued its half of the performance with “Rewind” and “Soft Landing,” two pieces that also utilized groups effectively, but more in the coordinated and engaging movements of the larger numbers than in the small groupings. The last piece, “Coalescence,” was choreographed by Niralee Shah ’12 and incorporated a spoken word performance by Brian Thomas ’12, which provided a different sort of soundtrack for the dancers and proved the adaptability of their dance to a variety of contexts.
While Dance Company left its explanations to the program, INISH’s performance mixed lessons of history and technique with their song and dance. They opened with a piece in the traditional slip jig style called “Chance Meetings.” The concept behind this set, however, was to move away from the familiar, something they promptly set about doing in the second piece, “Sean Nos Set.” In an older form of Irish dance, the steps included more fluid upper bodies and flat, often percussive feet.

“The North American Medley,” which featured song and no dance, nicely illustrated both the influence of Irish music and the ways in which it has been locally adapted with three songs ranging in origin from Appalachia to Quebec. “Flowers of Edinburgh” followed with a dance style of, unsurprisingly, the Scottish Highlands. The elevated feet were an unusual variation against the jumps normally performed by INISH.

The last two exclusively INISH pieces, “Galacian Set” and “Hornpipes,” flowed one into the other and showed Spanish influences. The influence of flamenco was particularly prominent in the stops that highlighted complex use of wrists. “Hornpipes” included a section without music that allowed the dancers to showcase a cool, sharp style the audience often doesn’t see in the pleasantry of their slip jigs.

Although Mixed Company aimed to showcase the future offerings of Dance Company and INISH, respectively, the two paired up for a finale that drew applause for its combination of styles. The side-by-side performance both entertained and informed the audience about what two styles of dance could do with and to a musical performance. The cool fluidity of a Dance Company member’s technique was then followed by the traditional jumps of an INISH dancer. The piece nicely finished an evening that promised very worthwhile performances from both groups in the spring.