GroundWorks DanceTheater // Trinity Cathedral // Cleveland, OH // November 12–13, 2010 // Reviewed by Steve Sucato
GroundWorks DanceTheater in Just Yesterday by Dianne McIntyre and Olu Dara. Photo by Dale Dong. Courtesy GroundWorks.
A wall of gilded pipes from Trinity Cathedral’s 18th century–style great organ rose above dancer Sarah Perrett as she moved along a diagonal corridor of light as if walking a tightrope. Three other dancers joined her on the portable stage, briskly walking to collide into one another with jolting chest bumps. This opening volley of non-traditional dance movement set the tone for choreographer Jill Sigman's new work Split Stitch.
Set to a score by composer Gustavo Aguilar, Sigman’s Split Stitch unfolded as a non-narrative collage of eclectic movement that had the GroundWorks dancers’ heads in the air, walking about smacking their lips like goldfish in search of a meal, twitching and convulsing, powering through riffs of classical ballet phrases, and popping themselves off the floor in rigid prone positions while dancer Damien Highfield shouted out counts. Despite its disparate movement phrases, Split Stitch never appeared chaotic. Through her expert arrangement of stylistically schizophrenic choreography, Sigman built tension as if holding us witness to dancers gone mad. The work concluded with dancer Felise Bagley repeatedly lifting one leg in retiré and eerily whispering the words “lovely, gently and nice” over and over.
The duet DnA, by artistic director David Shimotakahara and departing artistic associate Amy Miller, poignantly reflected on the pair’s 10-plus-year working relationship in the company. The piece revisited phrases from the pair’s prior works and touched on the emotions of their close friendship. In one moving scene, the two of them tussle and Shimotakahara blocks Miller’s forward motions as if saying to her “please don’t leave.”
The wonderfully performed program closed with Dianne McIntyre’s choreo-drama Just Yesterday. McIntyre integrated dance with spoken word and singing to form the work’s narrative, a powerful story about family and remembrance.
Set to an original composition for two guitars by Olu Dara, McIntyre’s longtime collaborator, the work's six dancers related childhood and family stories. Recalling memories of their parents’ hobbies and favorite foods, they mimicked riding motorcycles, rubbed their stomachs making “mmm…” sounds, and engaged in horseplay like oversized children.
The work’s most riveting recollection was of Shimotakahara’s grandfather, a Japanese immigrant, whose quest for the American dream came crashing down during World War II when he and his family were forced into an internment camp. Shimotakahara’s tortured solo, danced to narration of the story and Japanese song, was chilling.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.