Saturday, 18 November 2017 18:45

Review: Wellspring stretches boundaries and looks to the future with its fall concert

Written by  Marin Heinritz
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Between the two acts of Seeing/Seen, Wellspring/Cory Terry & Dancers’ Fall Concert of Dance, the audience is invited onto the stage to interact and make noise with drumsticks on the Singing Wall Sculptures, an enormous set of suspended gongs and other metalwork created by Lisa Renee Coons and Steven E. Pierce that is prettier to look at than to hear.

The gesture is a generous one, a nod, no doubt, to the theme of Wellspring’s 37th season: collaboration — and that any art that is, indeed, seen or otherwise taken in, is in collaboration with its seer, or audience.

Such cleverness is the purview of modern dance, especially that of the conceptual kind for which Wellspring is known.

But the most overt collaboration in Seeing/Seen is among artists in this fundamentally collaborative art form: musicians, choreographers, lighting and costume designers, and, of course, the dancers themselves. Such a concept is neither clever nor new; however, it works quite well in the nicely varied program of this season opener that offers six new and recycled eight- to 10-minute dances from three different choreographers set to recorded and live music performed by a particularly strong and expressive company of dancers.

And the most outstanding of collaborators in this particular show are Judy Moonert and Greg Secor, the Coalescence Percussion Duo, who take the stage for the entirety of Act II, and accompany the dancers with all kinds of percussive instruments. At turns contrapuntal, cacophanous, and melodious, their playing is masterful and innovative if not always altogether pleasant.

What they do with the Singing Wall is an enormous improvement upon the sounds the sculpture made at the hands of the audience; however, even with tools such as a bow and whip in addition to various knobbed drumsticks, what emerges is a sinister sounding song, something akin to what it feels like to be overwhelmed by the daily unrelenting barrage of breaking news or perhaps like trying to take a nap when there’s construction outside your bedroom window. But it is fun to watch them work; Moonert and Secor’s banging and gliding up and down the sculpture is its own dance, no dancers required.

This introduction to their musicianship is followed by an entire second act of premier dances performed downstage of the musicians and their truckload of instruments in front of the upstage wall of mirrors, making for a very full stage.

“Unfinished—A Work in Progress,” choreographed by Rachel Miller in 2014, a piece in which four women and one man, all dressed in men’s briefs and oversized button-down shirts and dramatically lit by Jon Reeves, intermittently walk and crouch, throw themselves on the ground, support each other in interesting moments of weight sharing, and mash up against each other while writhing around like a pile of epileptic cats. The movement matches Christopher Deane’s music perfectly.

“Where We All Meet,” from choreographer Alexis Harris, and “Flux,” a new work from Artistic Director Cori Terry, are more melodious in both form and sound. Elaine Kauffman’s pretty, flowing costumes, and the Coalescence Percussion Duo’s dueling Vibraphone and Marimba help facilitate the lilting loveliness that emerges here from what Terry described in a brief talk as the “surprising intersection of dance and music.”

The dances of Act I include Terry’s gripping, tension-filled “Citadel” and Harris’s beautifully moody “Now is The Masterpiece,” both of which premiered last spring, in addition to Rachel Miller’s earth-bound duet that begins as if it were a seductive game of Twister played amid invisible molasses and then grows in energy and height with standing lifts and inversions. Miller and Brandon Meier are a wonderful pair in this inventive pas de deus.

For 37 years Wellspring/Cori Terry Dancers have consistently performed the normative method of modern dance pioneered by Erick Hawkins while stretching the boundaries of what they do in collaboration with other artists from near and far — and sometimes, even, with their audiences. This season, they’re calling attention to what they’ve always succeeded in doing and offering a little something new along with that which their audiences have come to expect.

Fall Concert
Wellspring/Cori Terry Dancers
Nov. 16-18
wellspringdance.org

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