Caitlin Corbett Dance Company

September 19, 2008

Caitlin Corbett Dance Company
Tsai Performance Center

Boston University, Boston

September 19–20, 2008

Reviewed by Iris Fanger


Photo by Akos Szilvasi.

Rebecca Lay, Kaela Lee,

and Erin Koh in
Tom’s Wealth:

A Dance for the Masses


Caitlin Corbett knows that ordinary folks can invest everyday movements with beauty and dignity. In the premiere of her hour-long Tom’s Wealth: A Dance for the Masses, 30 citizens from the local community form a supporting phalanx for her virtuosic quintet of women dancers. Running the gamut of age and ability, they walk, run, skip, and gesture in unison. They wave a single hand, zip tight the mouth, and sink to the floor into primal positions. Corbett’s trained performers weave through them with more sophisticated phrases and a languid, uninterrupted quality.


Tom’s Wealth
is based on the mischievous episode from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which Tom tricks his friends into the “privilege” of white-washing Aunt Polly‘s fence, extracting a payment from each of them. The non-linear choreography does not tell that story, but composer Chris Eastburn refracts and deconstructs familiar American songs to create an aural reminder of the setting. Production designer Ann Steuernagel has mixed photographs of Tom’s collected treasures, taken by Akos Szilvasi, with rehearsal shots of the performers, projected large on the rear wall.


The troupe appears in its entirety at the opening and closing of the dance. Otherwise, Corbett integrates small groups into the solo and ensemble work of her more experienced dancers. Their fluid series of entrances and exits breaks only for pauses to focus to the projections. There’s an essence of contact improvisation in the duets, as if either partner could provide support. Kaela Lee performs an exaggerated solo to a pared-down version of “If That Mocking Bird Don’t Sing,” and six young girls are given their own turn in the spotlight. At the conclusion, to a mournful rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” the full company lies prone, except for Rebecca Lay, who stretches her arms and hands in silhouette against the backdrop.


In Tom’s Wealth, Corbett has acknowledged the universal urge to dance within the context of an iconic image of our nation when it was young.