Young choreographer Kate Nies’s how to stop time was the least polished of the evening’s works but the one that best carried out McCusker’s non-narrative agenda. This trio seemed to address issues of agency and power with steps that ranged from molasses slow to twittering. There was a restless isolation in Brian Crabtree’s trio Two Face Ed, and a rough-hewn casualness to his Get Down, Slow Down, Stay Down, his brief, organically developed duet with old friend Marjorie Morgan — both dances set to ironic, absurdist texts-plus-ambiance by the Books.
In City of Heaven, Melody Ruffin Ward stood at bass-baritone Frank Ward’s shoulder as he sang about the burdens of a pilgrim of sorrow. Persistently, her back to the audience, she reached out and up. When she fell into a sudden lateral balance that brought her ear to the floor, it was as if she were listening to the heartbeat of the Earth. Never merely illustrative, their unity seemed like the very source of Heaven.
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