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Photo by Rachel Neville.

Photo by Rachel Neville.

Back for its winter season, the Periapsis Music and Dance Collaboration series showcased a wide variety of works in the spirit of Valentine’s Day.

Love was depicted as an act of passion through the portrayal of jealousy, the act of sex and even death.

In Ursula Verduzco’s Pushing Mud, for which she was the main soloist, self love was shown to be entirely influenced by the treatment of others. Though the piece opened with a self-loathing ballet solo on pointe which she infused with strong flamenco-like gestures of her arms, pushing an imaginary skirt aside as she took each step, she eventually surrounded herself with an entourage of dozens of dancers. Little by little, they appeared to frame her and take cues from the from the movement she initiated. Verduzco snaked in and out of the human wall they formed around her. After several duets, the group began to move in the same direction as Verduzco and she slowly surrendered to the movement of the group. The love of oneself in this piece was thus minimal due to its full dependence on others. Overall it was quite aesthetically pleasing, even though seeing a choreographer indulge in a solo surrounded by her dancers was a little uncomfortable.

Leigh Schanfein also focused on self-loathing and insecurities felt by women in The Unfinished Pattern. Seven women entered the space and struggle to make it into the spotlight in this intricate contemporary ballet which highlighted the need for women to fit in, when they are in fact stunning in their individuality. Though as a group they tried to blend in which each other, the difficult succession of rapid gestures of each individual dancer really stood out.

Ruth Howard pursued the theme of struggle and timing in love through an aerodynamic duet of dancers entitled Lut Ave Dontralus. The dancers kept arriving at the wrong time for one another and the mistiming conveyed a common relationship problem–that a person is rarely ready to move forward when the other is, making it difficult to build a life together. At the end of this continual struggle, the male partner stood alone, waltzing all by himself. This particular composer-choreographer collaboration was in my opinion the most successful one of the evening since the musicians were fully integrated in the dance. Three Gregorian sounding singers created structures for the two performers to move around and also provided key lighting for the work through Ipads they each chanted the song from. They closed the piece by shutting down their kindles which were the main source of light of the dance.

Photo by Rachel Neville.

Photo by Rachel Neville.

Choreographer Tucker Davis on the other hand created a piece about the sexual experience unguarded. Set to the sound of drums, he turned fast position changes and body dynamics involved in sex into a very clean and family friendly dance full of tricks set to the beat of drums. Humor was a key element of this work, which both dancers initiated by challenging each other to strip one item off after another. Once undressed, they both, under separate spotlights, waited for the musician to come in to start having sex. It was thus not only hilarious but also a refreshing view on the topic that was respectful of more sensitive audiences.

Finally, in the line of complications, Leigh Schanfein also created a work based on Romeo and Juliet’s party and tomb scene and her take on the tomb scene is truly breathtaking. Set as a duet between Romeo and seemingly dead Juliet who is physically entirely supported by Romeo through intensely emotional partner work in which he is in control of her entire body’s motion. As audience members we can only be taken away by the impact of her loose and freefalling body which can’t seem to hold up on it’s own.

The more positive side of love was also showcased in its first passionate stages. The tomb scene dance was preceded by a party scene in which guests seduce and flirt in a swing dance infused ballet. Similarly to Leigh Schanfein’s Marionettenfadendurcheinanderwalzer, the partner dance was a timeless moment that remained between the eyes of two people, and could be highly exaggerated to a point of clumsiness. Both dances referred to first loves and social gatherings in which dancing is a celebratory and seductive game. In addition, Da’Von Doane’s work Behind the Veil was on the more virtuous end of the spectrum as his dance stood on its own with no extra fluff or meaning to it. Three dancers, one female and two males, devoured the stage one after another in highly technical modern ballet work. Despite clear gender specific outfits (shirtless men while the female dancer was in a tutu), the movement was gender neutral and trespassed most limitations found in other works.

All in all, Periapsis’s challenge of bringing choreographers and classical music composers to collaborate was inspiring as it forced us to recognize and appreciate the value of live music in dance. Though the choreographers faced the same collaborative challenge, each one approached this relationship differently despite the irony of a common theme throughout the works displayed.

Written by Alexandra Pinel

Alexandra Pinel is a choreographer, dancer and arts administrator from Paris, France. She graduated from George Washington University, in DC, with a BA in Dance and Art History with honors. Allie dances with Movement of the People Dance Company and for Amy Jacobus Projects and was a recipient of the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company Award for Innovation in Dance and a Luther Rice Research Fellowship to study dance in Berlin, Germany.
Most recently, Alexandra choreographed a music video for Chinese punk band Re-TROS and had her dance film for the anniversary of the Rite of Spring featured on NPR radio’s blog. Mrs Pinel works at the Harkness Center For Dance Injuries and for choreographer Luciana Achugar. She is also a member of the Junior Committee of Dance/NYC.