Island Moving Company

March 19, 2005

Eva Marie Pacheco and dancers of the Island Moving Co. in
Consent to Gravity.
Photo credit: Shane Photography

Island Moving Company
Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium, Providence, RI

March 19–20, 2005

Reviewed by Bill Gale


Barefoot, in dark sweats, a man roots his feet, rolling his torso back and forth; another lowers himself, tracing a finger on the ground. A cellist issues weighted tones. The men, Michael Bolger and David Lawrence, rarely move together. Spastically, Bolger shoots an arm upward; Lawrence lowers his head. Anxiety is in the air. In four minutes, the men have never touched.

This interlude—really two solos rather than a duet—is set amidst the hurly-burly of Consent to Gravity, a world premiere inspired by the life of Frederick Sommer (1905–99), an abstract photographer known for, among other things, his lovely, black-and-white ink drawings that resemble music scores.

The work is the brainchild of Newport photographer Thomas Palmer, who says he wanted to create a collage that represented Sommer’s life. He and the company’s artistic director, Miki Ohlsen, brought in Boston choreographers Daniel McCusker and Carol Somers, teaming them with composer Christopher Eastburn, the Providence String Quartet, four singers, and nine dancers.

Although Consent to Gravity sometimes moves perilously close to a hodgepodge (Sommer’s long life is patchy here), it makes a compelling beginning, sending out sparks that beg for more depth. If the choreographers give it that, and a point of view, it could well become a company signature piece.

With the musicians and singers onstage, the dancers are limited to contracted, contrasting movement—sudden limb thrusts and torso rolls that do not flow or follow naturally. In Somers’ “Octet” section, the quartet “reads” the faux music and improvises as the dancers—now eight, now two, now six—press hands to chest, fling legs out and down, and look to the sky. The music is a screech; with jagged, jazzlike phrasing, the dancers move without reference to its improvisation. But music and dance come together. Is it serendipity? Can’t say. But it feels edgy and faintly unstable.

At the end, IMC veteran Eva Marie Pacheco, with her short-cropped hair and black, glistening eyes, is alone. From the floor, she rises to do two circling jumps, and leaves. Consent to Gravity is over, but it may well have a future.

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