Who, indeed, has come to play? Five women in ten choreographic (no less compelling, for being non-cinematic) captures, their bodies conveying emotional captures that, as stated so well in the program, “draw the emotions of the audience into the rhythm and energy of the dance.” With no small appreciation due to the compositional—both music and lighting—choices of Tony Kopetchny, revealing a sure, and at times masterly hand with both. In always behind, never on time a casually dressed quartet (Xavaire Bolton, Emily Lynn, Erin Massie and Rachel Turner) whose steps and gestures are coordinated, yet subtly nonchalant, move in time to the mellow cello of Nick Takénobu’s “Thursday,” while smiles of insouciant pleasure flit briefly across their faces. things WE notice presents Bolton, Massie, Turner and artistic director / choreographer Sara Herrera in white spaghetti-strap or tank tops with tan briefs or short-shorts, observing themselves critically before four “mirrors” (empty, rectangular wooden frames). Turning and tugging and making faces at themselves as much as at each other in humorous pantomime, they seem to come to an accommodation, linking arms and dancing off together.
In XOXO, Xavaire Bolton gets a solo spot in red summer dress and panties (the back wall of the Atlas also becomes spread with red), and really gets her groove on to the plucking banjo and thumping back-up of Balmorhea’s “Bowsprit.” The mood shifts precipitously and dramatically with Abuelo’s Requiem, in which Herrera, Lynn, Massie and Turner, here in shades of black, gray and mocha, dance to the open wound of Abel Korzeniowski’s mournful yet imploring “Six Hours” and the searingly urgent, palpitating strains of his “Dance for Me Wallis.” The dancers embrace, each circling the others, making a sort of undulating human Moebius strip, then lay their heads upon each other’s necks; then one, in agonizing helplessness, looks to the others, but is ignored. They will join before it ends, the music now signifying strength and determination. And that’s not even the first half.
There’s also the desperately heartbreaking 1 a.m. scarefest, in which a woman begs forgiveness, or mercy, or understanding, only to be icily, ruthlessly refused, her bitter tears falling on unseeing eyes and deaf ears; the lights dim, leaving her writhing, prostrate form in shadow. She will at last summon up the courage to fight, exploding in defiance—only to find herself alone. Then there’s the charmingly quirky and whimsical saying goodbye, the country Western-flavored those we hold dear to our heart, the delightful “there’s pockets?!” and a “work in progress” at the end. That’s the only thing in this show that could be rightly called that.
Everything else has “progressed” to the point at which, to close with another quote from the program notes, the way in which Herrera’s “choreography is driven by personal stories using movement as a medium for understanding the world around her” draws audiences, for an hour that passes all too quickly, into her passionately physical, compassionately fragile, still hopeful, “work in progress” world.
We’ve Come to Play plays through July 27, 2014 at Atlas-Lang Theater, 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe Page.