Tuesday, May 04, 2010

CityDance 2 - Contact

The Music Center at Strathmore - Bethesda, Maryland
May 1, 2010

Firsts are significant events. Life is punctuated by firsts: first steps, first words, first day of school, first date, first kiss and many other firsts that need not be named. As any dance company develops, they too will experience a number of momentous milestones; one of which is the full-length program. This past weekend, CityDance 2 gave us their first featured performance with Contact, presenting six varied works that spoke to both the freshness of this group and the historical organization from which it came. Being able to participate in this incredible showing of talent must have been thrilling for the whole CityDance family and watching it unfold was quite a privilege.

The first act opened with The Bicycle Project by Kate Jordan, a mechanical exploration of the bicycle and bicycle culture. This was the only piece that I had seen before, though I still found newness and undiscovered elements in it. The first sequence employs a progressive construction of forms on a diagonal line from downstage left to upstage right. While the cast moved along this structural route, the projection screen slowly revealed a bicycle image. This combination of media and movement gave a strong sense of the evolution in assembly. Eric Hampton's Girl Friends made me believe that someone else, besides Jerome Robbins, understood how to mix ballet, jazz and contemporary dance and make it work. If only more choreographers could grasp this deep connection. During Adrain Bolton's Givin Up, all I could think about was liturgical dance. This was partly informed by the gospel-y music and the flowing dresses, though the passion and intensity of the choreography and the dancing was what really brought me to that place. The first solo, danced by Kate McDonald was particularly noteworthy: the longing and reaching of her arms and legs, her sidewise Graham pleadings, the crescendo sequence of her three grand rond de jambes where she looked like she was actually stirring her inner emotions. It was challenging, emotional and awakening all at the same time. Givin Up may not be liturgical dance, but it is certainly a consummate example of what liturgical dance should be.

The second act began with Leslie Ann Scott's Limbo - an homage to modern dance genius, Jose Limon, and his lifelong examination of the upper body curve. Scott utilized this motion in every possible direction (front, back, side, saggital) illustrating the depth of meaning that this curve can reveal. And, she highlighted the most important lesson of the upper body: the arms react because the torso and back move first. False Front by Delphina Parenti showed us two sides of a relationship. First was the idea of performance, were each partner plays their expected part, followed by an unraveling reality of what happens when no one is looking and the truth of a connection can't hide anymore. The final piece of the evening was Paul Gordon Emerson's Peregrine. Accompanied by the live music of Bottomland, Peregrine was an unencumbered celebration of wildlife. The gymnastic lifts, partnering jumps and inventive arms reflected a natural habitat and made a larger comment on the freedom of motion. The dancers jumped for pretty much the whole piece, representing the beauty and dynamism in what already exists and 'what can be'. So much is possible if we can just manage to let life happen.

When I read my favorite theorists and critics (Edwin Denby, Selma-Jeanne Cohen, Marcia Siegel), it always strikes me that they saw and wrote about today's dance greats before we knew who they were going to become. The starting phases; the early recognition of talent. It makes me wonder about the future of this company and these dancers: where will they be in twenty or thirty years? With the specialness they already exhibit, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

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