There are several exceptional things about Home Movies, the dance performance by Everett Dance Theatre, and one is that it’s so much more than dance. Story, music, and images combine in their own brisk movement to complement and amplify the troupe’s visual satisfactions. The crown jewel in the world-class Everett’s repertoire, Home Movies continues at the Carriage House March 10 and 11, in the kickoff of their 20th anniversary season.
The performance is easy to like, even for those who are not regular dance patrons. Memories of growing up and retold recollections of parents and grandparents are turned over like family album pages. The movement attaches to whatever is felt and brings it into animated life.
Five dancers are unfolding scenes from the lives of themselves and their four families, with moments of humor, drama, and poignancy. Literal home movies are projected on drop-down screens and the long background wall in the intimate Carriage House space. Louis Armstrong croons evocatively in the background. The Providence families they come from are a diverse and chock-full slice of American pie. Sokeo Ros’s parents fled Cambodia, surviving deprivations and dangers that included the Khmer Rouge. Bravell Smith is of Caribbean-American heritage, with an artist father and a troubled youth. He was a classic at-risk teenager when he went to Hope High School across the street from fellow performers Rachael and Aaron Jungels, whose parents’ house was open to all. (Their dancer/choreographer mother, Dorothy, is the artistic director of Everett and choreographic co-director here.) The grandparents of Marvin Novogrodski escaped pogroms and concentration camps in Europe, which provided the perspective to present his childhood problems with self-deprecating humor. As they summarize at the opening, in their homes friends were, by turns, welcome, few and not at all. Their parents’ methods of nurturing ranged from Ros’s father beating him and expecting him to take it bravely unless he wanted more, to the Jungels leaping around the house with their father.
The signature Everett dancing style is to take an everyday movement and let imagination reshape and extend it beneath the literal. There is constant narrative in Home Movies, and if, say, strutting down the street in a line is appropriate, that sight might morph into one of them being carried protectively for a moment before the group transforms once again. There’s a lot of winding in and out and dragging and pushing as individuals separate from the group and merge back. Think of two hands washing each other in slow motion. As Rachael relates a dream, she is wafted aloft like a Chagall figure, and when she is set down to walk, each foot is animated by the hands they are cupped in, by a figure who then rolls away like a puff of wind.
For all its visual satisfaction, theirs is not a style that requires exquisite technique. That’s what they have Rachael Jungels for. As the only woman in the company, in this production she gets a lot of attention, which is well rewarded. We hear from her about getting into Juilliard for her master’s in dance, and as she soliloquizes we see the results of that training in her lyrical line and balletic precision.