Mary Sheldon Scott/Jarrad Powell Performance
Photo by Peter Mumford

 

Mary Sheldon Scott/Jarrad Powell Performance
Velocity MainStage Theater, Seattle, WA
October 21–23, 28–30, 2005
Reviewed by Sandra Kurtz

 

Death is never very far away in the newest evening by choreographer Mary Sheldon Scott—in the title, in the program dedication to her late father, in the subject matter of the trio of works presented (about the destruction of nature and the life cycle of cannibalistic insects). Its presence in the movement itself is more oblique; the dancers often work with a fierce determination and arachnid elegance, their long legs twisting through a balletic lexicon while they stalk and slash across the stage. In Buffalo, a solo taken from Nature Abolita (2001), Jess Klein seems to take the hardest possible way through each phrase, her tension enhanced by the overtone singing in Jarrad Powell’s score.

Scott and Powell have been collaborators for 12 years, the latter’s contributions to the work usually reflecting the gentle clangor of his specialty, the Javanese gamelan, mixed with contemporary electronic composition. His sonic environments vibrate underneath the choreography. In Ashes/Ashes, a world premiere, the music creates the sense that the floor is static-charged and fuels the agitation of the footwork. The phrases resemble flamenco or pointe work in their articulation and unceasing activity. This tension propels the dancers as they move and animates them as they stand. There is stillness, but no rest—the performers watch each other intensely as we watch them.

Scott works with a fairly limited movement palette, deftly using the postmodern toolkit of repetition and inversion to make her point, which enhances the overall tension. Ellie Sandstrom, always a powerful mover, is a lioness pacing her cage here as she repeats and repeats her phrases. Rather than lulling us into complacency, she makes us twitch in our seats at her relentless attention, waiting for another shoe to drop. The work is less about the children’s game of the title than the plague it refers to.

In Praying Mantis (an excerpt from the 2002 full-length work), death does finally seem to prevail, as couple after couple gently slides to the floor. But in each case, the dancers quietly come back to their feet to repeat the sequence with another partner. They don’t rise in triumph, like a resurrection, but inevitably, the way nature continues to renew itself. See www.gamelanpacifica.org.

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