Tsunami Dance Company

June 9, 2006

Tsunami Dance’s John Allen, J Hammons, Erin Healan, and Rebecca Delery
Photo courtesy Tsunami Dance

Tsunami Dance Company
Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA

June 9–10, 2006

Reviewed by Nancy Wozny


Tsunami Dance Company’s “Orpheus” is a collection of dances and film sequences that its three New Orleans choreographers call “a kinetic dreamworld, inspired by the ancient story of love, death, loss, descent and rebirth.” Projected images involved underwater sequences, some ethereal, others depicting drowning and total submersion. Deferred from its November 2005 premiere by Hurricane Katrina, it’s uncanny that the show was created before the storm even had a name. Because the dancers were scattered all over the United States after the storm, it took considerable effort to remount the show.

“Orpheus” surfaced in one of the few intact theaters left in the city. A lobby exhibit of work by New Orleans artists—some crafted from remnants of their studios—reminded the audience of the devastation and loss of creative capital. Eerie, enchanting photographs by Vanessa Brown and Jeff Louviere, of dancers frolicking in water, set the mood for a precarious, unpredictable relationship between nature and humans.

The program alternated between live dances and projected media by Denny Juge. More of Brown and Louviere’s otherworldly photos added depth to Juge’s visual narratives, which provided punctuation between dances and a recurring thread of the mystery and power of water.

Artistic director Kettye Voltz’s Muse for Hire involves a kind of rough-and-tumble partnering suggesting a growing loss of control. J Hammons and Erin Healan, both handsome and able performers, gained momentum as the piece progressed, Healan flying about with absolute trust as Hammons tossed and caught his partner/prey.

Descent (Prelude)
, former Ririe-Woodbury dancer John Allen’s duet for himself and Anna Morris, made the evening’s strongest choreographic statement. The piece starts innocently with the dancers meandering onstage, marking a boundary in some imaginary sand. Then they burst into a ferocious duet. Allen moved with such wild grace that the floor underneath him seemed to give way. They looked as if they were being moved by a force outside of themselves, as if they were competing with the elements. Allen mastered a kind of unruly twist on control and abandon, and Morris matched his fury. It’s a storm of a dance; Allen and Morris captivated throughout.

Healan’s Ladies in Waiting showed off tight ensemble work and evoked a spiritual tone. The intricate patterns of four white-clad dancers created a threshold moment in Orpheus’ “rebirth” cycle.

Voltz’s Ego-Tripping at the Gates of Hell fell into the rebirth category, with seven dancers charging fearlessly through space to Amon Tobin’s pulsating music. Judging from the robust energy of these resilient dancers and the audiences’ emotional response, New Orleans is on the comeback dance trail. See www.tsunamidance.com.