Island Moving Company’s Great Friends Dance Festival

While most dance companies take summers off, things are heating up for Island Moving Company (IMC) as they present their 4th annual Great Friends Dance Festival at the Great Friends Meeting House in Newport.  In addition to IMC, this year’s festival includes Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Elisa Monte Dance, Aerplaye, Bolger.Rose, Ali Kenner Brodsky, Amaranth Contemporary Dance, Roxane Lola Movement Theatre and Lydia Johnson Dance Company.

Spread over two successive weekends, the festival features different performances each evening – no two shows are alike.

On Thursday, July 18, IMC company member Glen Lewis gets the Festival underway with what Executive Director Dominique Alfrandred describes as “new festival tradition.” The day of each performance, an IMC dancer choreographs a piece for company dancers leaving them with only a couple of hours to learn it! Lewis’ contribution, a campy romp poking fun at Victorian prudishness, serves as a nice appetizer for an evening of mostly serious dance.

The main course begins with Houston Metropolitan Dance’s “The Vessel.” With drums beating in the background, the choreography starts out as almost tribal and aggressive, the movements are jerky. But, when the music softens, the dancing follows suits. Then the musical intensity increases and the dancers leap from one to the next catching, lifting, spinning and turning, pushed to their anaerobic limit. As the lights darken, all seven dancers collapse to the floor.

Next, Bolger.Rose presents “Truth Be Told.” This number starts out excruciatingly slow and it is never really clear where it is heading. Sara Barney and Michael Bolger, accompanied by musician Tom Rose, begin by marking off the entire performance space in blue tape, creating a big box. They then tape a box around Rose and two smaller boxes opposite each other.

What follows next appears to be a dance version of H-O-R-S-E with each mirroring the other’s movements, straining to stay within the boundaries of the smaller boxes. When the music starts to become distorted, Barney and Bolger exit the boxes, dancing more freely. They then tear the tape off the floor and leave. Was the tape symbolic of order, conformity? – a curious piece at best.

Lydia Johnson Dance Company’s “In Conversation” emerges as the evening’s strongest piece and clear audience favorite. Certainly one of the most “classical” offerings, it features two women in white and two gentlemen in black. Composed primarily of a series of pas de deux, the choreography is both romantic and edgy, complemented beautifully by Philip Glass’ “Violin Concerto.”

The dancers’ deliberate arm movements, and the long, elegant lines created by each movement, form a striking visual. The partnering is light and airy with the women throwing their arms around their partners’ necks while gracefully spinning in place. At one point, they even roll over the gentlemen’s backs, landing softly on their feet. With the music fading, each couple embraces and falls to the floor, a pleasant end to a very soulful and emotional piece.

After intermission, Houston Metropolitan Dance returns with “Hidden in Plain Sight.” With dancers Lisa Wolf and Max Jones dressed in black, it seems to be exploring the themes of need and dependence. Jones always manages to catch a falling Wolf just before she hits the floor. Accompanied by loud synthesized breathing sounds, the two lift each other and cling to one another as if each was the breath needed to survive. Yet, when the music ends, Wolf defiantly pushes Jones away, forcing herself to accept independence.

Next IMC presents “Luminous,” choreographed by company member Shane Farrell.  Danced by Christine Sandorfi and Jose Gonzalez, both in nude colored tights, this piece is raw and cumbersome, but passionately graceful. It starts with Gonzalez dancing over Sandorfi, not in a dominating fashion, but as if he were dancing for her. The two separate, but come back together in a tight embrace. The suggestiveness and the musicality of Farrell’s choreography coupled with Sandorfi’s smoldering stare make this piece a guilty sensual delight.

Then Houston Metropolitan Dance returns once more with “Air.” Wearing matching blue uniforms and glued-on smiles, this funny and extremely clever piece mimics a flight attendant’s pre-flight instructions through dance. This is followed by a charming and playful pas de deux highlighting the fleeting nature of life and love.

IMC closes out the festival’s opening night with “Heart Vignettes.” With the full company, this piece unfolds like chapters in a story –hence “Vignettes” – detailing the struggles of an individual who appears to have a terminal heart condition. The lights darken, signaling the end of chapter; when the lights come back up, the story and dancing continue.

The piece features a moving pas de deux with Carol Tang and Gonzalez; Katie Moorehead and Lewis also have some fine moments. At times, the choreography seems random and varied. In one instance, the dancers perform tango-like movements. Then other times the dancing become more fluid and graceful marked by some interesting head, arm and upper body movements.

IMC’s Great Friends Dance Festival will run for one more weekend, July 24 – 27. For tickets or more information, go to islandmovingco.org.

 

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