REVIEW: Company Danzante presents “On This Road” at Atlas Intersections Festival

REVIEW: Company Danzante presents On This Road at Atlas Intersections Festival
by Michelle Hayes

Company Danzante presented On This Road to the first weekend of the Atlas Intersections Festival. The evening brought together four individual voices sharing relatable emotional experiences. The four choreographers, Arturo Garcia, Katherine Horrigan, Karen Reedy, and Marcus Willis, created their works out of reflection on the world and emotions they have recently been experiencing personally. During the talk back with the audience, Katherine Horrigan talked about four individual voices coming together and the realization that their emotions and experiences were more alike than they thought.

The first piece, Fly, choreographed by Artistic Director Arturo Garcia, created an image of the ocean as the sound of waves echoed in the theater. The movements supported this image as the six dancers weaved in and out of each other on a diagonal path. There was an back and forth feeling in the traveling movements and arm gestures. Much of the phrase work had a rhythm of quick-quick-slow. The dancers would move quickly for two movements and suspend the third. There was a shape that resembled the arch of a seagull’s wings which became a movement motif throughout the piece. The performance quality of the physicality of movement was high but lacked in the dancers focus, which was often down towards the floor.

There was a costume change toward the end of the short piece that confused me. The first costumes were simple – black fitted outfits that showed the dancers lines clearly and beautifully. At the end, two dancers had added a loose button up shirt and a black safari hat. By this time, the movement had become more swishy but I was unsure what caused the changes. The content of the inspiration for the piece was unclear for me. The piece was enjoyable to watch through strong technique and the use of choreographic tools – canons, repetition, level changes, and partnering.

The Situation Room by guest choreographer Marcus Jarrell Willis was a nice contrast from the unison and sweet melancholy of the first piece. Four chairs with a dancer on each were lined on the front of the stage, and the dancers stared straight at the audience with attitude and a sense of heaviness in their chair.

They began in unison, articulating specific body parts in quick and simple motions. Ticks like a foot tapping to the side or a the head quickly shifting were commonly used throughout the piece. The movements were often to the beat of the march-like music. As the piece progressed, it became clear that the dancers were in dialogue with each other and didn’t always agree with what was being said. There was a sense of aggression and haste as they moved around their chairs and through the space. About midway into the piece, they moved to sit around a table that was at center stage. This gave me the image of a debate, and movement became more forceful and aggressive through stomps, facial expressions, and arm sweeps across the table. They all wanted their voice heard and appreciated.

Without Words, choreographed by Artistic Director Katherine Horrigan, seemed very similar to the first piece in regards to movement and structure but showed more emotion and struggle. The piece started with a beautiful solo, which was the most memorable part. The dancer seemed to move through molasses as if there was some internal struggle she was working through. The movement throughout the piece was weighted and used deep plies and shifting of weight. It was unclear what the relationships between the dancers were until the end when the dancers reprised a phrase from the beginning in close proximity to each other. The piece had started with the dancers being individuals separate from each other and ended together as a group. They needed each other in the time of struggle and could be stronger together. The struggle was seen through gestural movements like grabbing one’s head, a rocking back and forth, or a distinct gaze over the shoulder.

The premiere of guest choreographer Karen Reedy’s From the Shadows took me on a journey. It began with a dark empty stage as a light grew from down stage left. The light carried this heavy, creeping effect as it quickly went away and four dancers entered the stage in a line so we only saw the face of the front dancer. The feeling of creeping in the shadows was continued as the dancers behind moved linearly so we could see their feet and arms only. I noticed there was more variation in movement in this piece and less unison, which drew me into the world the dance was creating and the emotions behind it.

The dancers directed their eye contact in the direction they were traveling. One movement that was memorable to me was a backwards twisting spiral which was repeated in different ways over the course of the piece. Each dancer put their own emotion and feeling to the movement. I could see they were actually feeling this sense of unknown and that they felt their might be something creeping behind them. The piece ended with the group deciding they were going to go in the direction of where the shadow came from to investigate it more. They had moved past their fear and were tackling it together.

The topics and emotions expressed in the choreography felt reflective of the world and struggles we are facing in this world today. The exact story the dancers were telling was not always clear, but I was able to relate to struggle, aggression, joy of dancing, and commitment to working together. Throughout all four pieces there was strength and vulnerability in the precision of movement. Art must be a reflection of the world around us, past and present, and Company Danzante created a show that reflected our world accurately in this moment.