On Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 4 pm, the audience at Dance Place was treated to an enlightening and entertaining dance-video performance titled Just Be, by ReVision Dance Company, a resident company of Dance Place. Featuring the choreography of Artistic Director Shannon Quinn and videography and film by David Dowling, this afternoon of dance was unlike any I have previously experienced.
Just Be was not only a celebration of Shannon Quinn’s choreography, ReVision dance company’s expressive roster of dancers (Briana Carper, Sarah Kramer, Elizabeth Malone, Natty MnCube [guest artist], Jillian Peterson, Matina Phillips, Shannon Quinn, Alison Talvacchio, and Elizabeth Zinni), but also celebrated and educated the audience to the outreach work that this company of dancers provides, namely to The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region, Mamie D. Lee School in Ft. Totten, and Tiqwa School of Pretoria, South Africa.
In Just Be, the opening piece of choreography by Quinn with contributions of dancers Carper, Kramer, Malone, MnCube, Peterson, Phillips, Quinn, Talvacchio, and Zinni perform beautiful grounded movement phrases in unique, crisp, and deep colored pedestrian separates. All of their movement penetrated the space with sweeping jumps in arabesque, running and rolling into the floor, and balances on one shoulder, to name a few. There’s a freedom in the proprioception of the company of dancers, as well as their individual fearlessness and strength of performance quality. With a sound score comprised of voice recordings of ReVision dancers, as well as compositions arranged by Quinn and Sound Designer Bradley Porter, the music and the movement worked in harmony.
The next piece, Support, featured choreography by Quinn and dancers, performances by Carper, Kramer, Malone, MnCube, Peterson, Phillips, and music by The Books and Bonobo. Beautiful sequential movement allowed the audience to see the energy move through each of the dancer’s bodies. Inversions against and into the wall showcased individual gifts of the dancers, not to mention the seamlessly choreographed transitions into and out of said inversions. The most dynamic and effective section of the piece was a rhythmically and gesturally specific floor section performed in perfect unison. At the heart of the work was a theme of overcoming not only one’s expectations of the self, but other people’s expectations as well, expertly expressed in a sequence of movement reminiscent of athletic running suicides. The dancers ran downstage, toward the audience, with vigor, and then upstage toward the wall and leapt off of said wall, with equal parts abandon and precision.
Mamie D. Lee School, the last piece of the first act, featured the full cast of ReVision dancers as well as students from the Mamie D. Lee School (Duane Blacksheare Staton, Dawn Lyles, Rayquon McCord, Kenneth Miller, Hasan Nixon, Kenneth Robinson Jr., Lauren Stewart, and Qi Yi Zhi). With a sound score of entertaining music by Michael Jackson, the audience was sold before the movement began. This piece entertainingly educated the audience to the strength of the bonds, both artistic and interpersonal, between the ReVision dancers and the Mamie D. Lee dancers, perhaps in a way that surpassed the similar efforts of the videography throughout the performance. There was so much comfort among the combined cast of dancers, allowing the audience to give themselves over to being entertained, as well as enthusiastically supporting the artistry onstage, through cheering and clapping along to the music. I can think of no better way to transition into an intermission!
People First, the first piece after the intermission, was the most dynamically different from what the concert established in terms of Quinn’s choreographic style. Performed by Carper, Kramer, Malone, Phillips, Peterson, Proctor, Talvacchio, and Zinni, with music by The Books and Ulrich Schnauss, the dancers explored the imperative nature of using people first language, not referring to an individual by their disability. The piece began with a tight, gesturally specific and unique opening sequence, performed by the whole cast. As the piece progressed, darker tones entered into the work, both in choreography and performance, exhibited in fast, intricate athletic movement, propelling dancers through the space in an efficient and entertaining manner. After a video, exploring various voices on people first language, the dancers performed the dynamic opening sequence, but this time with the feeling that a weight had been lifted. The gestures that looked tight were given some air and a lighter quality.
Connections, choreographed, sound designed, and performed by Shannon Quinn, was eloquent, both in her commanding performance of her words, as well as her commanding physical performance. The clarity of her movement was also translated beautifully in her sound score. The luscious movement quality so present in Quinn’s choreography was expertly displayed in this solo. In moments both giving into and gaining momentum from the floor, Quinn elevated herself, physically and emotionally, into the next movement of the piece. This open exploration of the inspiration from her father and the work ReVision dance company has done thus far, along with the specificity of Quinn’s performance created an irresistible solo.
In the closing piece of choreography, Just Be, the cast of ReVision dancers performed in beautiful and interesting combinations of each other. The floor projection seemed to interact with the movement of each of the dancers. There was an athletically fueled and entertaining theme of running from the wing into intriguing floor contortions, and bounding up into the space above the floor without skipping a beat. The performance ended on an enlightening note, both artistically and psychologically.
ReVision dance company’s performance of Just Be was as beautiful an expression of art and outreach work as I have ever experienced. This performance intrigued me in such a way that I am curious to see future ReVision performances. I wonder what the future holds for this company’s work, and its translation to the stage space. What future collaborations, artistically and technologically, will simultaneously elevate this work and open the audience’s eyes to the power of art in connecting communities of people? Whatever the answers, I know that Quinn and her company of dancers will bring their individual gifts to the project at hand, ready to move with simultaneous fearlessness, clarity, and specificity.
Running Time: Two hours, with one fifteen-minute intermission.
ReVision Dance Company’s Just Be was performed on Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Dance Place – 3225 8th Street NE, in Washington, DC. For information on their awesome calendar of events, check out their website.