Words in motion

Fusionworks unwrap their latest moves  
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  March 29, 2006

NEW TALENT: Stanford.Fusionworks director Deb Meunier first got the idea for her “Unwrapped” talks from a parent chaperoning schoolchildren to a dance concert. The parent felt that the introductions to the dances made watching them much more enjoyable and requested that the same be done for adult audiences. Meunier tried it out four years ago, and it was such a success that she’s offering two of the four performances coming up at Ashamu Dance Theatre in the “un­wrapped” format (eve­nings March 31 and April 1).

From her audiences, Meunier has discovered two main misconceptions about modern dance: that it’s inaccessible and hard to “get” and that it’s serious and heavy. Meunier compares the abstraction of modern dance to that of music. She points out that it’s not always somber by citing dance pioneers other than Martha Graham who brought in elements of comedy, Afro-Cuban dances, and jazz. She proves this point by in­cluding something upbeat or wacky in her programs.

In her unwrapped discussions, Meun­ier tells a bit about how she came to create a particular piece or about other choreographers whom she might be showcasing. She explains the way that lighting, props and costumes enhance each dance. And once she has “un­wrapped” each work, she and the company put it all back together in the performance of that piece.

Meunier is always intent on presenting new dances along with reprising others. For this spring concert, titled Wait Till You See My Moves!, she has invited two guest groups: the junior company called Fusionworks II, headed up by

Stephanie Stanford; and Arabella, a group of female dancers who will perform the José Limón etude from the American Dance Legacy Institute’s repertoire. Featured will be the mother/daughter duos of Julie Strandberg and Laura Bennett and Catherine and Tovah Bodner. (The guest troupes will perform only at the March 30 evening show and the April 1 matinee.)

The two pieces from current repertory are Iron Man Meets Scuttle and Static and Slow Run Back. Iron Man was choreographed to music by the Bad Plus, with Iron Man himself based on the Marvel Comics character. As seen last fall, Iron Man is all braggadocio and brawn until the irritating Scuttle and the intriguing Static throw him off-kilter. He swings out a few kung-fu kicks and tries a headlock on Scuttle, but he is eventually robbed of his belt, which gives him strength. He lies, powerless, until Static takes pity on him and gives it back.

Meunier dances Slow Run Back with one of her long-time Fusionworks dancers Donna McGuire, and the two of them create mem­orable images from small gestures — hands pulling words away from their mouths or feet restlessly shifting weight back and forth — and from unusual partnering — Meunier jumps three times toward McGuire in an almost fetal position, clinging to her midsection, and being caught by her. Set to a minimalist score by Scott Killian and also seen in November, Slow Run Back grabs the viewer and doesn’t let go.

“Donna and I have danced together for so many years and this piece is so close to us,” Meunier noted, “it feels like it’s gained a depth of maturity, especially since we took time and rehearsed again with Dorfman in the fall.”

One of three new pieces is by New York choreographer (and former Bill T. Jones dancer) Andrea Woods, to the music of Philip Hamilton. Titled Morning Song, it is de­scribed by Meunier as “modern dance meets Afro/Cuban movement.” Another piece is a collaboration and work-in-progress with composer Michael DeQuattro that deals with layering, be that rhythmically, visually, or mathematically (counting out unusual Indian beats).

The last piece, Avoidance 2: New Rules, is an improvisational dance set to a soundscape created by Ron Schmitt. The number refers to an earlier improv titled Avoidance, done two years ago. A set of very specific rules is established for the dancers that restrict the movement they can do at certain times and in designated spaces.

A bit of comedy, a dash of drama, a spectrum of rhythms and an anything-goes improv. Wait till you see these moves! 

Fusionworks | March 3-April 1 | Brown Univer­sity’s Ashamu Dance Theatre, 77 Waterman Street, Providence | 401.946.0607 |www.fusionworksdance.org

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