‘Join in the Dream’ at ClancyWorks at Dance Place

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Join in the Dream featuring ClancyWorks Dance Company and Guest Choreographers, Deborah Riley and Susan Shields, performed this weekend at Dance Place, and provided a contemplative evening of modern dance works by multiple choreographers. The concert celebrated the choreography of three truly inspired women (Clancy, Riley, and Shields), as well as ClancyWorks’ status as a Dance Place company-in-residence. Prior to the start of the dancing in the concert, Clancy gave a curtain speech to contextualize the concert for the audience. During said speech, Clancy spoke to the ability of a different cast to shift the audience’s interpretation of the piece, with specific mention of her piece Benchmarks.

Aaron Draper and Ronnique Murray in 'Dream Catchers.'
Aaron Draper and Ronnique Murray in ‘Dream Catchers.’ Photo courtesy of CkancyWorks.

Benchmarks, the first piece in the program, was choreographed by Adrienne Clancy in 2012-2013, and danced by Aaron Draper, Olivia Lou Jordan, Ronnique Murray, Natalia Pinzon, and Adrian Safar. The dancers, in red tank tops, navy pants, and black shoes, maneuvered in, on top of, over, and under long black and beige benches. Having reviewed the piece previously at the 31st Annual Choreographers Showcase earlier this year, I took Clancy’s pre-show speech to heart. Upon viewing the piece again, I took notice of the use of the dancers’ focus in the work. I was intrigued by the various ways in which the dancers looked at each other, as well as at the audience. For example, Murray’s focus pierced the invisible wall between the audience and the dancers with its strength, while Jordan’s focus seemed to be on the precision of the movement. Draper’s focus was flexible and mirrored the dynamics of choreography he was performing. The other aspect of the work that intrigued me was the use of the bench, and its ability to conceal movement/existence of a dancer from the audience as well as conceal movement and the dancer’s presence from the audience. One of the choreographic strengths of the work is Clancy’s ability to shift the vantage point for the audience, since we are stagnant in seats for the duration of the piece. Her work shifts, and allows the audience to get a new perspective every so often.

Deborah Riley’s Shadows, choreographed collaboratively with dancer Althea Skinner earlier in 2014, followed in the program. Riley, Director of Dance Place, set the work to Chopin’s Prelude (Op 28, 15) in D flat major, and the dance, its choreographer, and dancer seemed to work in perfect harmony for the entirety of the work. The movement at the top of the work was calculated and soft, and as the piece evolved, the movement on the surface began to reveal pain, with tremors in the gestures. These gestures worked to Skinner’s favor as her movement began to shelter her from the uncontrollable elements in the environment, with gestural arms helping shelter her. While static tremors revealed themselves on the surface, there was a gorgeous reserve of certainty and strength that kept the tremors at bay. Riley’s choreography was engaging, with specific, tender gestures as well as sudden shifts in directionality as Skinner traversed through the space. Skinner’s performance was transcendent and a testament to the beauty of successful collaboration between inspired artists.

Displaced, choreographed by Susan Shields in 2012 and danced by Olivia Lou Jordan and Aaron Draper, featured Jordan in a green draped dress and Draper shirtless and in a pair of black trousers. The speed of the dancers’ movement seemed to escalate as their time in a specific pool of light passed. Their speed also escalated as they danced separately, allowing for their dancing together to stop time and feel luxurious in length. Jordan and Draper portrayed strength in numbers, and the strength that is reached when two people work toward the same goal.

Push, choreographed by Clancy (with assistance from Adrian Safar and Erin Tunbridge), was danced by the participants of her class at Dance Place, which met for a total of twelve hours over eight weeks. The dancers, Rebecca Comfort, Sarah Greenbaum, Edith Han, Rashida Hill, Kevin Huy, Claire Jones, Ronnique Murray, Maia Stam, Michelle Hayes, Liz Shemory, Serene Webber, and Kate Zyla, performed to a score by Astor Piazzolla and wore black bottoms, white tops, and red accessories. This piece displayed dynamic partnering sequences, a cornerstone of Clancy’s choreography, as well as a beautiful section in which the dancers weaved, twisted and turned in and out of each other’s space. The movement was circuitous, visually appealing, and just enough for the eyes to take in, what with so many dancers sharing the space. While the red accessories were a touch tacky, what with some dancers wearing fingerless gloves and oversized hair ribbons, the piece was a fun addition to the program.

The Art of Letting Go was choreographed by Clancy in 1998, and danced by Natalia Pinzon and Adrian Safar in sheer black ensembles. The piece began with the two dancers entangled, up against the wall at the upstage perimeter of the space. The partnering sequences in this piece seemed to represent another human’s ability to lift another person up to new heights and trap them. These two abilities of one person over another person’s life allowed for very interesting sequences of movement. Halfway through the piece featured a dynamics shift toward the dynamic and away from the ethereal. The stakes in the movement were raised exponentially from here to the end. Working together, the pair takes each other through new experiences, with a more visible give and take. With the end of the piece came a return to the wall where they started, through a sequence of mutually beneficial movement.

After a fifteen-minute intermission, Dream Catchers finished out the program. The piece, choreographed by Clancy in 2014 and danced by Clancy, Aaron Draper, Karen Fox, Olivia Lou Jordan, Ronnique Murray, Natalia Pinzon, Adrian Safar, Kevin Huy (apprentice), and Joshua Munoz (apprentice), began with three pairs of dancers each at their own slanted doorframe. The dancers clad in navy and lighter blue tops and navy cropped pants, performed sequences of partnering, which began individually and moved toward unison movement in a cannon. This first section of the work displayed the use of the set pieces, including baskets of balls contained on opposite ends of the doorframes, which the dancers rolled from one end of the frames to the other. The highlight of this section was a moment in which the cast travelled on the diagonal and across the length of the stage, and weaved intricately in and out of each other, with sudden focal shifts and pauses in movement. The movement wasn’t unison, but the end goal of each dancer was, and watching this unfold was a dynamic high point.

The second section of the piece welcomed Karen Fox, who walked down the stairs in the audience with a handheld mic in one hand and a basked of balls in another. Fox wore the same top as the dancers and her own skirt and high-heeled boots, Fox talked about dreams, specifically those of the audience. This audience was not that vocal which, paired with the soft speaking voice and demeanor of Fox, made for a lull in the dynamics of the work. Nevertheless, Fox mentioned a myriad of dreams, from world health, to no rush hour traffic, to more time (for oneself and/or with loved ones).

As Fox mentioned a dream for more dance, dancers rolled out a plastic tarp with their bodies across the stage space, and Fox watched from downstage. The rolling and sliding of the dancers and this flooring was beautiful in its simplicity. New motifs arrived with the addition of the tarp floor, such as the juxtaposition of linear and non-linear life paths, what with the dancers moving with the help of the dancers or without the help of the other dancers. What does support do to the paths we traverse? With another section of movement, Clancy explored the difference between pursuing a dream and cognizant of others going after the same things, as opposed to feeling you are alone in pursuing a dream, and intersecting with other people, be it ever so brief. What does the cognizance of support do for the dream(s) we go after?

Suddenly, three more doorframes are revealed at the upstage perimeter of the space, which the dancers slide into a diagonal pathway, with the original three frames. Tarps, similar to those on the floor, were rolled down and the dancers changed behind them, their bodies in silhouettes akin to a music video from yesteryear. Now in slick white tanks and matching shorts, the dancers rolled around in paint expelled from the balls in Fox’s basked, which she tossed into the stage space. As more balls were thrown, the dancers became progressively more paint clad.

While Dream Catchers felt disjointed on the whole, the moments of simplicity were able to shine brightly, and allowed one to contemplate the effects of support on one’s dreams, consciousness of one’s path versus blind ignorance to that path, and the beauty of untraditional movements/things in the moment and their effect on the dream at hand.  I wholeheartedly believe that with time, both for the dancers and for Clancy’s vision, this piece can hit the ephemeral dynamics of Clancy’s other works, such as Benchmarks.

 Olivia Lou Jordan in 'Dream Cartchers.'
Olivia Lou Jordan in ‘Dream Cartchers.’ Photo courtesy of ClancyWorks.

Running Time: Two hours, with a fifteen-minute intermission.

Join in the Dream was performed on November 15 and 16, 2014 at Dance Place – 3225 8th Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For more information on future events, go to their performance calendar.