Penelope Freeh and Jocelyn Hagen

October 3, 2012

Slippery Fish
and Other Offerings of New Music and Dance”

Southern Theater
Minneapolis, MN

September 28–30, 2012

Performance reviewed: Sept. 29

An amiable collaboration between choreographer Penelope Freeh and composer Jocelyn Hagen, this meld of live music and dance was modest in the best sense—small, but rich. Its evocative duets, choreographed by Freeh and performed by her and guest artist Patrick Corbin, included musicians who were often integrated into the dancing. An additional solo for Nic Lincoln to recorded sound made for an intimate and intriguing evening.

In Miniatures, Corbin and Freeh scurry around the periphery of the stage, surrounding the musicians, who perform Hagen’s score center stage. A call-and-response structure finds the dancers reacting in silence to each segment of music: the rolling good humor of the piano; the quirky percussion; a lovely a capella rendition of a religious text, a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Their movement reflects the architecture and ambiance of the sound—a succulent little folk dance with flat-footed triplets, or a supported adagio with supple allusions to the music’s plangent yearning.

Perhaps nothing speaks to the talents of a choreographer more emphatically than a solo created for another dancer that both captures his uniqueness and gives it depth and context. In Paper Nautilus Nic Lincoln, in an old-fashioned sailor suit, parlays a series of iconic dance gestures from 1930s musical numbers and movie stills, into a meditation on repression and fragmented identity. His body is simultaneously fluid and hypertonic; he seems to tie himself into knots, even while gliding and loping around with the insouciance of Donald O’Connor. Easing in and out of painful reveries, he maintains the façade of a carefree sailor on a lark. Classic popular songs like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and jarring fragments of Morse code underscore the sense of a body encoded, and of a man attempting to reconcile the numerous personas he simultaneously constructs and deconstructs before our eyes.



Both photos: Penelope Freeh and Patrick Corbin in
Slippery Fish.

By Sean Smuda, courtesy Freeh.


In Slippery Fish Freeh and Corbin interact with violinist Sam Bergman and vocalist Carrie Henneman Shaw. Corbin rocks back and forth as Bergman, seated on a knocked-over chair, bows plaintive chords. Dressed in stylish black shorts, white pleated tops, and beaded cloche hats by Tulle and Dye that suggest 1920s bathing costumes and stylish flapper wear, Freeh and Corbin sashay around, echoing the music’s witty fragmentation. They mirror and trace one another, each one entering into the spaces created by the other.

The relationship is formal and abstract rather than intimate, the shapes they make a kind of fluid plastique that references Art Deco, Delsarte, and Dadaism. At one point Corbin’s tap dancing and body-slapping connect with Shaw’s fractured scales as Freeh swans around in odd coordinations—a cubist rendering of vamping? Finally the two dancers morph through a series of poses, a lovely collusion of Delsartian gestures. Their isolated emotions and stop-frame action make for a fetching collage of it-girls, strong men, and bathing beauties. The period references are more than pleasantly nostalgic—they’re charged with a freshness of discovery and play.