In the current Fusionworks production, Locally Grown (at the Carriage House May 8 at 2 and 8 pm), artistic director Deb Meunier and her company are welcoming two dance groups from local high schools, the Masters Regional Academy in Smithfield and the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Pawtucket.
“Locally Grown means not just presenting our own work,” Meunier explained before the show started, “but nurturing the next generation.” It’s a plus in several ways for audiences to see these young dancers, not only to recognize the natural talent among them but to contrast their movements, confidence, and poise with the Fusionworks company members. It adds to the way you look at the more experienced dancers and the performances.
This Fusionworks program also gives dance fans the opportunity to view a particular piece once again. Dance is such an evanescent art form that you notice different things each time you watch it. Thus, two works that were first performed by the company last fall and are reprised in Locally Grown — Pascal Pioult’s Wien (1995) and Meunier’s Finning (2009) — give us another chance to experience their strong emotional content and to focus on sequences that might not have caught our eye before.
Wien (German for “Vienna”) is set to La Valse, by Maurice Ravel, a dramatic, highly-charged, almost manic waltz at times, and the choreography echoes the moods in the music. This piece is very demanding for the dancers, with split-second timing, as the six of them, clumped in a tight circle, move around the perimeter of the stage while shifting places or suddenly doing a quick lift with another dancer. For brief moments, there are tender two-person waltzes and even comforting embraces, but those quickly change to violent shoves and mouths opened wide in horror. Wien is an engrossing, thought-provoking commentary on the effects of a dictatorship taking hold of a nation.
In Finning, the choreography is also closely linked to the music, a sax concerto by Takashi Yoshimatsu. Meunier has chosen to do the first two of three sections: “Entrapment” and “Grief: without a witness, we simply disappear,” referring to the practice of slicing off the fins of sharks and leaving the giant fish to die. Initially, five dancers create piscine gestures with their hands and then they become entranced with a sixth dancer — “the evil force,” in Meunier’s words — and are caught. The second movement has dancers miming sorrow and consolation. The problem with this piece is its literalness; its message still overwhelms the art.
Two chestnuts from Fusionworks’ (and Meunier’s) repertory are Buenos Dias (2002) and Let’s Try Again (2004). The former, danced to Carlos Santana, is a flirtatious, high-spirited party, with seven dancers in bright orange, yellow, and green dresses, with a ruffle on the bottom they can swish back and forth, as they sashay and strut.
The latter, set to a song by Seal, is a solo danced alternately by Sheramy Keegan-Turcotte and Mallory Walker. Since we were viewing a dress rehearsal, we got a chance to see each dancer’s interpretation of this aching, bluesy love plea. Keegan-Turcotte’s long limbs give poignant expression to the undulations of her hands and arms. Walker’s form is sharper, as her fingers curl into fists or her head rolls across her shoulders.