Giant Steps

Island Moving Co. makes its annual Flight
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  July 11, 2006

TAKING IT OUTSIDE: The troupe in action at Fort Adams.
Island Moving Co.’s summer concert series, Flight of Steps, once again combines company members and guest performers, local and out-of-town choreographers. Flight of Steps takes place at Fort Adams in Newport for the fifth year, with performances beginning at 6:30 pm (call 401.847.4470). The first weekend (July 14 through 16), Island Moving Co. will feature a premiere by Colleen Cavanaugh, plus dances from Andary Dance, Table 62 (a group of recent graduates from Roger Williams University), and Tami Stronach Dance, based in New York City. The second week (July 19 through 23), IMC will premiere a new duet choreographed by Tami Stronach and a new work by artistic director Miki Ohlsen.

I saw the latter two in early rehearsals and a portion of the Cavanaugh dance back in April. Stronach was putting Eva Marie Pacheco and Michael Bolger through their paces in Contain yourself, darling, a dance theater piece which premiered in 2003 in Brooklyn, where it was performed by Stronach and Kate Weare. Set to “gypsy music,” Contain yourself, darling touches on issues of status and control.

“The work is really about the fear we all carry that if we allow ourselves to feel our emotions fully, we will somehow fall apart and disintegrate,” Stronach explained. “I think actually the opposite occurs — we get stronger, better able to accept ambiguity, and beauty emerges.

Certainly Pacheco and Bolger, who experienced the loss of their Providence Ballet studio in the recent Downcity Diner fire, bring strong feelings into this piece, and as business and life partners, they draw on a rich history of dancing together. In working on a section of the duet, Stronach was advising them to show the weight of their arms in the dripping way they hung from their elbows, to create a floating swivel as they partnered each other, to do less lifting than shifting of weight. Movement became metaphor in each small sequence.

Ohlsen’s piece, There’s a Party In Her Mind, is set to four songs from David Byrne’s 2004 disc, Grown Backwards. With eight dancers — Meredith Baer, Janelle Gilchrist, Lilia Ortola, Ira Hardy, and David Lawrence, plus guests Danielle Genest, returning to IMC from New York, and Sean Gunter and David Murphy from Boston — Ohlsen has created a dance driven by Byrne’s ever-changing rhythms.

“His fabulous, wacky rhythms are about life in general,” Ohlsen reflected. “It’s just the way life is. We have to plug along and just keep on stepping.”

In the movement set to one of Byrne’s lighter tunes from the album, She Only Sleeps with Me, Genest takes the central role, flitting from one partner to another, all but flying sideways into a male dancer’s arms, hands folded as if in sleep, but always landing safely. The four couples in the dance also have unusual partnering sequences that begin with a bit of merengue and end in lifts that emphasize the long line of dancers en pointe.

The other Rhode Island choreographer premiering a work set on the IMC dancers is Colleen Cavanaugh, who has done four previous dances with IMC. A practicing ob/gyn as well as a choreographer and music lover, Cavanaugh initiated piano lessons three years ago and discovered composer Gyorgy Ligeti, whose fast-paced music is featured in One, Two, Three Ligeti. The dance uses five dancers in six movements, in a solo, a duet, a trio, and two group sections. 

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