AMERICANA AND KID CULTURE Island Moving Co.'s Field Trip.
Although Island Moving Co. has moved their summer dance concerts inside, after 20 years of battling the elements at outdoor venues around Newport, they have chosen an unusual and historic site — the 1699 Great Friends Meeting House, the oldest surviving house of worship (Quaker) in the city — for Dance? Dance. Dance! (through July 26).
Surely the tolerant and open-hearted Quakers would be happy to see the building's current use for a different kind of spiritual homage: honoring the place that art has in our souls. IMC company member Danielle Genest premieres a multi-part piece, Time Is the Fire in Which We Burn, that aptly demonstrates that quality. She takes her inspiration from a Delmore Schwartz poem and sets the dance to Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe's intensely dramatic music.
The lines of Schwartz's poem in the program emphasize (as does Genest's piece) the double-edged nature of human interactions: their evanescence and insignificance in the cosmic swirl, and yet their burning importance in the moment that they are happening. The piece opens and closes with the classic push-pull of a love relationship. Lights come up on Lilia Ortola and David DuBois, as he half-kneels, her body draped across his knee, her head and arms thrown back, her face a glazed stare.
The more DuBois tries to comfort her, even holding her curled up on one shoulder, the more Ortola resists and draws away. She tries to banish her doubts, with a gesture of splayed hands passing her cheeks and stretching out; they both reach up, arms and heads turned high to search for answers, but none come, and she dissolves in tears.
This theme is played out in variations with six other dancers, including three guests from Festival Ballet Providence — Alexander Akulov, Roger Fonnegra, and Mark Harootian — whose striding past the two lovers pulls them into a revolving whirl of leaps and lifts and three more paired confrontations. The struggle to find a way out of conflicts has the dancers at one point crawling across the floor, inching forward on their elbows. The only respite from this anguish is the tenderness between the first lovers, when she realizes the depth of his yearning and reaches for him. It's a heart-tugging but achingly beautiful piece.
The second two acts of Dance? Dance. Dance! stand in stark contrast to the tone of Genest's piece. California-based choreographer Kelly Ann Sloan, upon seeing the Great Meeting House, thought about school kids on a Field Trip, and she imbued her piece with strong images of Americana as well as kid culture. Set to banjo/bass duets by Béla Fleck and Edgar Meyer, this dance is a hoot from start to finish. Square dance configurations and flexed-feet folk steps show up in the first movement; next is a duet by Meredith Baer and Christine Sandorfi full of sashays and sass. Ortola and DuBois are paired again for a rock-paper-scissors tease between schoolmates, complete with finger-poking jabs and fake kicks. The piece is rounded off with six dancers having some foot-stomping, knee-slapping fun.