By Garinè Isassi
Through the Wall is a dance story that sprang from an art experiment put together by Source Festival called the Artistic Blind Date Program. Artists from different disciplines were thrown together and had to come up with a piece. Last year, three of those artists were choreographer Meredith Barnes, playwright/actor Chelsea Thaler, and composer Mark Platenberg. When they found that they created something special, they continued to develop it over the past year and have now brought it to the Capital Fringe Festival.
At first, this work seemed to be all about modern dance, featuring dancers from the DanceArtTheater Dance Company, founded and directed by Barnes. The stage filled with nine dancers to open, along with a wooden doorframe and stack of boxes, all set against the brick wall in the Christ United Methodist Church’s basement. The choreography utilized every inch of the stage space with precise movement. I was happy to see the variety of body types among the dancers, who wore various shades of grey and black.
The music was an interesting combination of recorded music and sounds, interposed with Platenberg performing on a piano and a steel tongue drum (a saucer-shaped metal drum that rings like a muted, south Caribbean steelpan drum).
The short, 45-minute show is divided into distinct sections of dance, with duets, quartets, and full ensemble moments. Between sections of dance, Thaler enters the stage and tells the audience, part by part, a touching mother/daughter story.
The choreography employed not only the dancers but also the lighting and set pieces. Shadows, spotlights, and specific warm or cold lighting became essential to the expression of the dancers. Especially moving was one duet where the music and lighting became somewhat harsh as one of the dancers frantically relocated the wooden boxes within the space, illustrating toil and desperation in every movement.
Throughout the show, the wooden doorframe, which so innocently presented itself at first as a simple set piece, practically became a dancer itself, being moved and used as a mirror, a picture frame, a see-saw, a burden to carry, and finally, a door to pass through.
This performance was extremely professional, well rehearsed, and filled with obvious talent. After moving through the story with the ensemble, I loved how it reached a lovely, yet unexpected ending. When it was over, I wanted it to see more.
Running Time: 45 minutes, no intermission.