Review: Seeing/Seen breaks down boundaries and soothes the soul

Anyone who says ballet-based modern dance doesn’t go with hip hop has been proven entirely wrong by Wellspring Cori Terry & Dancers’ Spring Concert of Dance, Seeing/Seen, a collaborative performance that breaks down both real and perceived boundaries from start to finish and beyond.

That point is clear from the moment the dancers take the stage, making an entrance en masse as a boisterous entourage with Last Gasp Collective, the brilliant 10-person neo-soul hip-hop fusion band who provide the accompaniment like a heartbeat for the choreography in this gorgeous one-hour performance.

Actually, with the musicians onstage with the dancers, interacting with them and having conversations through music and movement, it’s hard to say who was accompanying whom. Which perhaps suggests the truest, most successful collaboration possible.

Wellspring has collaborated with live musicians of various ilks for decades. However, working with a band that makes a point of never playing the same song in the same way twice no doubt made for a fruitful challenge. Of course, dance performed to live music is an entirely different art from dance performed to recorded music.

With Last Gasp Collective and their unique hybrid of various freestyle forms of music including hip hop, R&B, jazz, funk and soul, the dancers appear to respond in kind. Their movement feels organic and free, inspired by the music in the moment. At the same time, it’s utterly clear — particularly in moments of perfectly synchronized choreography — how highly technically skilled and well-rehearsed the dancers are. It’s a feat rarely achieved and utterly breathtaking to watch.

In 10 original pieces — seven of which included solos, duets and larger ensemble dances — everyone on stage shines individually and collectively, and even Founder and Artistic Director Cori Terry herself takes the stage and sets the bar for her six dancers to follow.

Highlights include “Miss Coretha,” composed by Jay Jackson and choreographed by Dasan Mitchell, in which Jay Jackson’s kinesthetic rapping is as much a part of the energetic movement as Mitchell’s gorgeous agility and nimble leaps. The audience has the opportunity to watch the musicians watch the dancers while also seeing themselves in the upstage mirror in front of which the musicians perform. It’s a glorious meta-moment of connection.

Likewise, in “Tarot Card,” composed by Jay Jackson and choreographed by Jasmine Statzer, Statzer and Maddie Korff appear to be perfectly connected, and literally moved by the music in gorgeous curls, swirls and backward leaps. Together they dance in perfect unison while Venezia Jones powerfully sings, “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I ain’t.”

And in the powerful finale, “Golden Parade,” the six dancers enter in silence and rhythmically stomp their right feet in unison, “an army of artists . . . fiercely into our art,” as Terry said in the opening night talk-back.

Indeed, it’s an inclusive army committed to each other and to a greater good. In a world that all-too-often tells us we are separate from one another, this is a joyful and truly excellent collaborative performance between art forms and among people who are different from each other but dedicated to raising each other — and their audience members — up. From beginning to end, it’s a much-needed balm for the soul.

Wellspring Cori Terry & Dancers
April 19-21