IN THE SPOTLIGHT Stanford Shaw’s Turf Wars will be performed.
Once again abiding by their motto — "Different is good " — Fusionworks Dance Company has engaged two guest choreographers, in addition to artistic director/choreographer Deb Meunier, for their Fall Concert Series at Rhode Island College on November 18 and 19. Fusionworks alumna Karen Swiatocha, Festival Ballet Providence company member Mark Harootian, and Meunier will premiere new works; Avoidance, an audience favorite from 2003, will be reprised; and Company II will perform Stephanie Stanford Shaw's Turf Wars.
The inspirations for choreographers' visions or images in any given dance are as varied as the steps and movements they create. Swiatocha's Commute, set to a score by Yann Tiersen, dips into the personalities of three different commuters.
The first section has three dancers (Melody Gamba, Mallory Walker, and Stanford Shaw) waiting at a subway station, looking down the track, hands to eyes, leaping, running, and jumping, sometimes in sync and sometimes in a canon. As the train arrives, the three find seats next to each other, with expressions and body language indicating moods. The '30-style swing music is infectious, and Walker's wide-eyed eagerness sends them off into two-steps and waltzes before they land in their seats again.
The third segment is even more character-driven, as Gamba conveys her anxiety by strumming her fingers in her lap, biting her nails, and tapping her foot. Her nervousness is contagious to the other two, who pick up Gamba's twitchy habits and interact with her in the daydream. The sound of the train initiates the final section, as Stanford Shaw's depression is portrayed. Desperation is in the looks she throws over her shoulder, the vulnerable wrist she shows to the other two. Eventually they catch her as she falls and carry her back to her seat. Although this piece incorporates pantomime-like gestures, the emotional content also manifests itself in the dance elements: extensions, slow turns, heads lifted or dropped.
Mark Harootian's Expecting What's Become is set to a score by Clint Mansell, and its abstract musings may have been suggested by a recent dance injury. Harootian's choreography is always attuned to the music, with a solid classical ballet foundation and a contemporary twist.
Four dancers begin with a sharp intake of breath and a stretching up with one hand, eyes following it. The pair in the middle (Alexandra Rose and Amy Bardenhagen) begin to partner, and then the four (including Gamba and Walker) form a tight circle, holding arms for balance. Bardenhagen moves away from the other three, shoulders rounded, head down; eventually, they restrain her from a frantic running.
In the second movement, large square blocks become props, as dancers swing over, leap up on, or stand on them. Then the music swells, suspense building, and fades into the Beethovenesque piano phrasing of the third section. Arms swing lackadaisical; one hand reaches out, the other is laid over the heart. One dancer swings a leg over another's head, and another pair repeat the move.
The four come together again, gripping arms for support, while the chorale-like music becomes ultra-dramatic. Bardenhagen breaks loose, stomps one foot in anger, and then the music becomes tender, and she puts her hands out, palms up, as if cradling fragile dreams for the future.