The contemporary dance scene in Atlanta is constantly evolving. After spending many years dancing and performing in New York City and in Pittsburgh, Pa, I recently relocated to my hometown Atlanta, Georgia. This has given me the chance to immerse myself in the evolving world of contemporary dance in the South.
The word on the street is that choreographer Lauri Stallings is shaking things up with her site-specific installations around the city. Stallings has found a home for her contemporary dance company, gloATL, at the Goat Farm, a visual and performing arts center located in West Midtown, Atlanta. As curator of the performance series, Tanz Farm, Stallings has chosen various dance companies to connect Atlantans with cutting-edge artists active on the national and international contemporary art scenes.
The first performance of the four-part series, which runs from now until May 2013, occurred this past weekend at Goodson Yard. The performance commenced with a visceral duet between gloATL dancers Virgina Coleman and Jimmy Joyner. Vulnerability, compassion, ecstasy, and longing were all displayed both subtley and explicitly in the dancers’ movements. Coleman, a long-time dancer of gloAtl, captured raw emotion in each gesture, step, and lift of the leg, making Stallings’ choreography honest and pure. As the dancers moved, Presynaptic Potential, a work created by Atlanta-based video/filmmaker Micah Stansell flickered across the back of the room.
Following the duet, Theatre du Reve, Atlanta’s French-language theatre company, performed a creative new work, Re-member/Re-membre. The actors, who ran across the stage and sat in the audience, incorporated and captivated the audience, but overall the piece lacked brevity.
Mallory Baxley, Ellen McCollister, and Amanda Thompson, of Zoetic Dance Ensemble then entered the performance space as three unique artists to present a preview of What’s Under There. Periods of visceral, grounded phrase work accompanied by music were juxtaposed with moments of stillness and speech. Although all three dancers committed to the movement, there was little actual interaction with the audience.
To complete the dance performance, three long-limbed dancers from North Carolina Dance Theatre slid across the performance space and danced The Groove, a vigorous short piece choreographed by Dwight Rhoden. Sarah Hayes Watson, a veteran of Rhoden’s work, committed fully to the pulsating, virtuosic, and at times, poppy movement style.
To conclude the show, Eliza Rickman, adorned in a Victorian dress with one delicate feather in her hair, beckoned the audience out of their seats and into an adjacent performance space to listen to her play the piano, toy piano, kazoo, bass drum, and accordion. The haunting restraint in her voice and the ease in her performance mesmerized those who listened. Rickman will be one to watch.
Transitions, such a key aspect of any contemporary performance, and an important detail Lauri Stallings has mastered in other gloATL performances, lacked a sense of flow in this first Tanz Farm show. This was likely due to last minute changes that proved to be necessary due to the weather. Any project I have seen Stallings create has been carefully and intricately made. I am certain that the next Tanz Farm performance will be even more inventive and well produced. It’s exciting to be apart of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Scene as it moves and shakes this city.
*Tanz Farm: Series Two, December 14-16th at the Goat Farm Atlanta. For more information, click here.