SUPPORT SYSTEM Ohlsen's Struggle for Comfort.
Island Moving Co. in Newport is nothing if not supportive of other dance companies and choreographers, having worked with many from far (Colin Connor) and near (Colleen Cavanaugh) over their 28-year history. This is the second year of the Great Friends Dance Festival, which had a prelude in May, when IMC joined Janusphere Dance Company, Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance, and John-Mark Owen Presents in New York. For those performances, they also premiered Struggle for Comfort, by artistic director Miki Ohlsen, set to the music of Henryk Gorecki, as well as a newly expanded version of Connor's Bodies of Water.
The festival, at the Great Friends Meeting House, continues through July 31, with excerpts from Struggle for Comfort and Bodies of Water, plus pieces by Lavignano and Adrienne Westwood/VIA Dance Collaborative. Repeated from the Sunday performance that I saw will be excerpts or complete works by company member Danielle Genest, Cavanaugh, Ohlsen, and the Pasadena Dance Theatre (check islandmovingco.org for details).
The evening began with an excerpt from Cavanaugh's "Seaside Reverie," set to two sonatas by Mozart. A duet by Brooke DiFrancesco and Marcelino Juarez, this bright, playful piece, in circus-stripe costumes, had Cavanaugh's characteristic musicality — quick steps matched to quick notes — and, among its leaps and lifts, some unusual male-female maneuvers. Lots of fun.
In stark contrast, Genest's To Rest was somber and thoughtful, with gestures of grief, floor poses that conveyed anguish and resignation, and expressive and supportive interaction among the three dancers (Kristy Reynolds, Shane Farrell, and Glen Lewis), as they leaned on one another to gather strength or as two dancers physically held up a third. Set to Rachel Grimes's "Mossgrove," it was wrenching and heart-tugging.
As was the third part of Ohlsen's Au Coin de la Rue, set to Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas," sung by Edith Piaf, and danced by Danielle Genest and Juarez. Two beautiful lifts, one as Genest rolls high across the back of Juarez's shoulders and the next as he holds her up and describes that same arc, are breathtaking. The eye-catching gesture of toes turning in and out on the floor, with hands running up cheeks, captures the ambivalence and pain of leaving a lover.
The other sections of Au Coin are more upbeat, with multiple flirtations on the street corner, set to "C'est L'Amour" and "Johnny, tu n'est pas un Ange," and the frisky, stylized folk dance/ballet of "Padam." These songs were also performed by Piaf, with dancers Christine Sandorfi, David DuBois, Meredith Baer, Carol Tang, and Juarez.
The other piece that will be repeated this weekend is the Pasadena Dance Theatre's Mobile, set to Khachaturian and choreographed by Tomm Ruud. This is a mesmerizing piece, with two female dancers (Deanna Beasom and Alissa Halpin) balanced against the limbs of Michael Waldrop's body in frieze-like positions or actually hanging onto his body, like a living mobile. With the addition of dancer Seth Belliston, choreographer Laurence Blake's Either Venus, becomes a double-duet, set to Arvo Part, that is similarly captivating.
In addition to those five performances, Sunday's program included excerpts from Owen's "Folk Songs"; Saifan Schmerer/SASSON's "Make Me Whole"; and "Ilse," by Anne Zuerner of RoxanneLola MovementMachine.