2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Two Stories’ by Jillian Glace

Two Stories, choreographed by Jillian Glace, touts itself as a dance piece centered “on the concept of perspective and how intimately we experience relationships.” While the piece succeeds at the latter, the show provides little insight on the former.

Two Stories presents to us a former couple, recently split. Both partners seem ill-at-ease with the situation until one night they get back together – perhaps for just that night or perhaps for a more drawn-out period. Then, finally, the couple splits once more, restoring the heartache that permeates the beginning of the piece.

The audience takes up residence inside two rooms in the cottage of the Maas Building on the fringes of Northern Liberties. One half of the audience watches a female solo in the bedroom, while the other half watches a male solo in the living room. Then, after the solos have finished, the two halves switch places and see from the opposing perspective. After this second go-round, the audience leaves the cottage to sit on the concrete patio to watch four more dances that take place in the cottage.

It is the separation of the spaces – interior and exterior – that rings most true. Sitting on the inside, I can read more nuanced facial expressions. I can feel the energy of the bodies. I see the dancers look outside the window in search of answers in a vast world. From the outside, details are obscured. I feel alienated from their inner struggles. Rather than the world feeling big, the individuals feel tiny. Neither perspective is deemed superior, and the shift from more-to-less-intimate echoes the couple’s growing distance in the latter half of the story.

Amanda Falivene-Rocco in 'Two Stories." Photo by Casey Clemetsen Photography.

Amanda Falivene-Rocco in ‘Two Stories.” Photo by Casey Clemetsen Photography.

However, Two Stories offers us little in the realm of perspective. The male and female solos that start the piece are incredibly similar. The same sequences appear in both solos, and the tones of the dances are identical. Narratively, these two people maintain the exact same perspective throughout the entire piece: it hurts to be apart, but it might be what’s right. The order in which the audience sees the solos is irrelevant to the experience or storytelling. I am simply treated to additional views of the beautiful Maas Building space (and Allison Emmerich’s gentle but effective lighting), one dancer substituted for the other.

As for the outside segment, the concept of ‘multiple perspectives’ was substituted for ‘poor sightlines.’ 75% of this section was solos, meaning the audience had a singular focal point. My sightline from the front-left corner, chosen because it was directly in front of a window, delivered mostly empty rooms. Creating multiple focus points with more extreme sightlines could have truly given each audience member a slightly different perspective on the exterior dances.

The show’s nine musical tracks are interchangeable – medium-slow, folksy songs with on-the-nose lyrics about love and breaking up. The choreography rarely strays from this feel either, lulling the audience into a 45 bpm heartbeat. Whether or not it benefits the piece, Glace succeeds in her choreographic goals as stated in the program. The dancing is lyrical, often directly connected to the lyrics of the given track.

The dancers are Amanda Falivene-Rocco and Lavise Lowery. The choreography is not virtuosic or overly technical (which is deliberate), but the two seem comfortable moving in the rather confined spaces of the Maas interior. Falivene-Rocco beautifully expresses emotion with her face and comes across as a little more sure-footed than Lowery, though both shine equally in the duets.

All in all, Two Stories was a pleasant evening. Hopefully future iterations of the piece offer a more nuanced approach to its themes while preserving the exploration of intimacy through space and proximity.

Running Time: 60 minutes, without intermission.

Two Stories has two more performances today at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM at The Maas Building – 1320 North 5th Street, in Philadelphia, PA. Purchase tickets online

RATING: THREE-STARS.gif

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