Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
A Liz Lerman Dance Exchange Project
June 27–28, 2009
Reviewed by Emily Macel
Drift. Photo by George Hagegeorge, Courtesy Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.
At the edge of the stage, an old man in suspenders holds a large burlap sack, and a woman with grey hair pulled into a bun wields a knife. She plunges the knife into the bag and rich soil pours out onto the floor. This sets the scene for Cassie Meador’s Drift, a dance-theater piece that addresses the politics of changing suburban landscapes.
Meador, a member of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange (whose dancers make up part of the cast) was inspired by the way a plot of land in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, went from a farm, to a strip mall, to a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, to a church. (The piece was commissioned by the Kennedy Center and first performed last fall.)
Meador called upon a cast of dancers-turned-townspeople to tell the story of the changing land. A spunky grocery store clerk, played by Sarah Levitt, spoke to the audience about loving the thrice daily rainstorms in the store (the watering system for the produce) and enjoying her employee discount on cereal. She then pondered why her store sold peaches from California rather than from Georgia.
At a kitchen table, the elderly woman (Martha Wittman) served her husband, Thomas Dwyer, a plate of rocks, representing the lack of crops from that season. The large stones then became dance partners as well as burdens; rocks were held in hands and waltzed with, and they sat on shoulders to weigh the dancers down.
Three moveable screens, covered in white quilting, made up the set. The images projected onto them—farmers and their land, aisles of a store—reflected the storytelling.
The dancing spoke as loudly as the spoken word in Drift. When the grocery store clerk talked of rainstorms, her movements resembled a plant growing upwards and out, arms stretched to the side. Her body fell to the earth, then she stood and repeated the motion. However, there were also purely entertaining dance interludes. At one point the screens were turned around to reveal hundreds of boxes of cereal, as the cast bounced around with grocery carts and Cheerios to the 70s tune “Right Back to Where We Started From.” It was cute and intentionally kitschy.
In some moments the choreography was simple. Between embracing lifts, a man helped a woman step from rock to rock. At times the entire cast pulled the sky down with sharp thrusting fists. When three couples appeared diagonally onstage, one partner moved in slow motion, as the other encircled them with a fast bounding run. The partner then ran backwards, taking the music with them as chords became dissonant, like a record on reverse.
Liz Lerman’s intergenerational style shines in this work. Meador’s eye bodes well for the future of this choreographic approach.