Saturday, 04 May 2019 17:42

Review: ‘Eyes Back, Feet Forward’ is a testament to the power of collaboration

Written by  Marin Heinritz
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Anyone who loves dance knows there’s a special alchemy that transforms dancers’ expressivity when they perform with live music. There’s a heightened musicality, yes, but also potential for greater aliveness and responsiveness.

Cori Terry has capitalized on this alchemy with various collaborations over the nearly four decades of her modern dance company Wellspring’s existence, most recently last spring with the terrific Last Gasp Collective, a 10-piece hip-hop/jazz/soul fusion band with “a vision of bringing people together to create a moving culture of fearless artists who believe in the spirit of collaboration.”

For Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers’ spring concert this year, the two have reunited to reprise beloved works with new life as well as bring new music and dance to the Kalamazoo stage in the one-hour program “Eyes Back, Feet Forward,” described by Terry as “a celebration of live performance” that gives “more energy and openness to both art forms.”

The show’s finale, “Golden Parade,” composed by Last Gasp Collective founder Jay Jackson and choreographed by Terry is the powerful pinnacle of collaborative achievement here, a reprise from last year’s “Seeing/Seen” in which a colorful “army of artists . . . fiercely into our art,” as Terry described them, enter and exit in silence, rhythmically stomping their right feet in unison. The dance is warmly lit by Jon Reeves, and the dancers break off into pretty tableaus of three, punctuated by lovely layouts, lifts, and leaps.

Another familiar piece from last year is “Tarot Card,” also composed by Jay Jackson but choreographed by Jasmine Statzer, in which a wonderfully expressive Statzer does straight-leg, forward-folding and backward-moving jumps interspersed with undulating arms and torso before being joined by Maddie Korff with big sweeping arms and turns as well as swiveling hips. It’s a study in curves and angles. They dance in tandem while Venezia Jones sings “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I ain’t.”

Terry’s “Warm Shadow” is made new with chest-thumping live music composed by Fink, arranged by Jordan Hamilton, Jessica Ivey and Venezia Jones. Moody yet bright, Last Gasp Collective’s on-stage performance brings greater musicality to the dancers’ lifts, loops, and edgy triads until they seem to take flight from a running start.

Also reprised but made new by LGC’s performance and Jay Jackson’s composition is Rachel Miller’s Ari 2. In black dress, a long strand of white pearls, and bare feet, she writhes on the floor, rolling into little jumps, swinging the pearls around her neck and then tracing the floor with them. It was announced this is Miller’s farewell performance with the company, though she will continue to curate their annual RADfest.

Dasan Mitchell’s “Ode to Diana,” composed by Jay Jackson with support from Mitchell, as well as Marisa Bianan’s “Mixed Messages,” composed by Big K.R.I.T., are both new works that provide a notable and interesting diversion from Terry and others’ familiar choreography.

The seven dances and 11 songs showcased in “Eyes Back, Feet Forward” feel alive in the ways that only live performance at its best can be. It’s so dynamic, in fact, it even makes the well-worn and familiar new again.

Eyes Back, Feet Forward
Wellspring Dancers
May 2-4

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