Last Friday night, I attended Behind Painted Lines, presented by Cara Goodwin’s Beyond Lines Contemporary Dance Company. The program benefited the Wounded Warrior Project, and was dedicated to the memory of Joshua Harris, Goodwin’s boyfriend who was killed in action in August, 2008.
Nowadays, the use of projections in theater and dance are common place, and to be honest a bit overused. However, tonight was unique because the projections used were the artwork of the late Harris. Instead of simply being a backdrop, I found myself sucked into his wide array of artistic styling; the dance seemingly created to support this art. Goodwin’s choreography was as varied as the numerous paintings, etches, and photographs; together, the works fused into a unique pas de deux of stillness and movement, establishing a caring and lovingly crafted tribute.
Goodwin’s fifteen lovely dancers rose to the occasion, proficiently executing her challenging choreography. At times, they moved in remarkable unison, which can come only from highly intelligent and well-rehearsed artists. Each dancer performed with abandonment and exhibited individual expression without taking away from what was essentially an ensemble evening-length work.
Behind Painted Lines presented two different ways of being viewed: a literal representation of the emotional roller coaster that one goes on when losing a loved one in such a devastating way or as a stand alone work of beauty and luxurious lines. The movement had a range of sharp, staccato moments that melted into languid adagio so seamlessly that I found myself several times in a trance-like state simply absorbing the beauty of these fourteen ladies and one gentleman.
Over all, Goodwin’s choreography was engaging and enjoyable. She has a knack for showcasing the strengths of her company and giving them all a chance to dance; for this, I applaud her. Goodwin isn’t scared of stillness on stage, and her subtle use of military marches and “about faces” built toward a delicious payoff. The strongest moments occurred in the smaller sections, trios The Walk and Hush, and the solo Her Fall. In these vignettes, the audience was able to see the intricate details of the work, which requires an amazing awareness of one’s center of gravity. However, most of the sections–numbering seventeen in total–used large numbers if not the entire cast which proved to be weary on the eyes at times. Her unique vocabulary, which consisted of a fusion of contemporary and ballet, was enhanced by Julie Seitel’s effective lighting design. The use of silhouette added intensity to the work.
The last section of the piece, Remembrance, was the most literal section of the evening with projections of Goodwin and Harris. The audience was taken on a journey through shots of them together, pictures of Harris skydiving, and of Goodwin at Harris’ grave. It was moving, and the choreography blended so seamlessly with the projections one could almost forgot that they were there. Amazing Grace felt to be a clever and appropriate musical choice.
They had me in the palm of their hands, and then suddenly, the night was rudely shattered by a curtain call that was danced to rock-inspired music. This seemed out of place with the rest of the show. If that wasn’t enough, each dancer had a moment to give a cutesy nod to the audience in which some of them chose to “krump” and do other freestyle movements. The spectacle seemed irreverent, considering the emotional stakes that had just been raised. Yet, the ‘encore’ drew the audience to their feet, in a joyful standing ovation.
With so much uncertainty in today’s society, it is nice to see a piece with such a wonderful message. Beyond Painted Lines was a evening about life, love and loss, yet a thread of hope ran through the entire work. Simultaneously, it was a passionate, cathartic work and a strong, entertaining experience that was one-of-a-kind.