Before the premiere of “Citadel,” the new dance that closed Wellspring Cori Terry & Dancers’ opening night of Expedition: Spring Concert of Dance, Ms. Terry spoke from the stage, explaining that the push/pull, the conflicting energy of competition and need for connection, was the primary impetus for the piece. In other words, she was inspired by the 2016 presidential election, and the ways in which politics plays out at both national and local levels with people and their primary drives and desires at the center of it all.
“Conflict is energy,” she said, suggesting its presence isn’t necessarily negative. And yet “we all crave connection. We have to live in communities . . . we need each other.”
The complete company of six dancers, five women and one man, express this theme dramatically, with literal and figurative pushing and pulling, lifting each other up, rejecting advances and ultimately accepting an outreached hands.
Dressed in strong yet feminine red and purple pantsuits by Patricia Plasko, they separate into factions, and reunite in a fabric set piece masterfully constructed and lit by Jon Reeves. It looks like an enormous female condom made of mosquito netting that, at turns, glows from within, and serves as a screen for reflected images of a blue sky with white clouds. The dancers cannot penetrate it from the outside and yet once inside find protection and connection.
It effectively communicates the double-sided metaphor Cori Terry described in her curtain speech.
The dance itself presents a denouement to the overall beautifully sequenced 90-minute concert of six dances, all but one of which is choreographed by Ms. Terry.
The climax and greatest triumph of the show is Now Is The Masterpiece, another dance Ms. Terry created for the company this year. The dance is transfixing; to witness it is to feel it in the center of your chest.
Also deeply dramatic, it begins with a single dancer lit by an overhead spotlight who is joined by a tableau of three dancers dressed in pretty earth toned wrap dresses by Elaine Kauffman that allow them to roll on the floor, slowly emerge upward and shift in to lifts and gentle leaps and turns. Quietly ambient electronic music heightens transitions by exploding into a stringed symphony.
The dancers, especially Jasmine Statzer, emote with every fiber of their being, creating the kind of experience for an audience that draws them into the dance, into a single-pointed focus of the moment exactly as it is occurring.
To be drawn into the present moment is the most affecting and exciting of the expeditions the company aims to take its audience. They do this by blending motifs created with the sharp lines and hard edges of their trademark normative style of dance from the Erick Hawkins tradition, balletic turns and extensions, a nod to lyricism, with a smattering of whimsy.
The whimsy and humor shows up in the silly if not goofy Wander over Yonder, Rachel Miller’s work from 2012, set to three difference excerpts of David Byrne and Talking Heads songs. It shoots for campiness, placing the dancers with enormously expressive faces in the woods, adorned with hiking gear and backpacks. They skip and play, get eaten alive by bugs, lose cell phone signal, and ultimately get utterly lost. It’s a stark departure from the rest of the dances in the show, and though it’s all in good fun, it falls short of proper camp, and illustrates that narrative and pantomimed movement is not this company’s strong suit.
However, what good is a modern company that doesn’t experiment? After 37 years, this company has earned the right to try, and to fail. It’s all part of the creative process. And a little variety, a little levity in the middle of an otherwise serious and lovely exploration of movement and dance (also including G Song, Femmesthesia, and Pulse) is entirely appropriate, and perhaps even enhances the overall power of this compelling concert.