REVIEW: Enoch Chan Productions Presents: DEVIATED THEATRE/Hillary-Marie’s Sole Music Collective
by Taryn Brown
Structural informality and rhythmic invention were blended at Enoch Chan Production’s recent mixed bag dance showcase at the Sprenger Theater within the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The evening featured IMPACT Dance Company, The #TapLife Company, fusiondance, Sole Music Collective, and DEVIATED THEATRE. The event was glued together by Chan’s improvisational insert introductions, which included an audience participation stadium wave and words of encouragement toward spectator engagement.
The evening was divided into three acts. The opening act featured guest performances from DC companies. IMPACT Dance Company performed The Collapse, a youthful female octet laden with partnering, acrobatics, and dramatic emotions, with choreography by Candra Preshong. In The #Taplife Company’s The World As I See It, we were gifted a tap dance quartet with formidable formulaic builds and a genuine feel-good energy. Preshong also choreographed Cocoon (an excerpt) via fusiondance, in which Shelley Siller and Laura Gelles performed an elegant adagio cirque act of elongated extensions, dynamic weight sharing, and positive/negative space exploration. The dancers looked like two pieces cut from the same fabric who were trying to rejoin each other in various ways.
The second act featured Hillary-Marie’s Sole Music Collective in VIBE: the cornerstone of this shared show. The piece opened with a voiceover stating “vibration is the core of the spirit; it is the breath of life.” With various sections of solos and group dances, VIBE served to showcase tap dance as pure movement, as well as within miniature personalized narratives. Choreographic tools included tricky cannons, powerful unison, and a symbiotic connection between pensive performance and likeable showboating.
Hillary-Marie’s resume is vast and includes TedXTalks, running the Jersey Tap Fest, and the #Herspective video web series. Her work with Sole Music Collective serves as a springboard for locating tap dance within a concert dance context. The implementation of Mark G. Meadow’s live piano along with her fellow performers (Charles Renato and Liberty Styles) served to truly bring the house down. Their dancing was phenomenal with its equal parts flamboyance and mellow contemplation.
Rounding out the evening’s pieces was Beyond (a work in progress) by DEVIATED THEATRE, the full version of which is set to premiere later this year. This ensemble dance was co-directed by Kimmie Dobbs Chan and Enoch Chan. Beyond gave me the sense that I was at a 1990’s art warehouse party watching an exploration of aerial dance, chill-out music, and performance art.
The dance had a loose narrative that intertwined the biblical Adam and Eve, astronauts, a Martian, and Earthlings. Text that to alluded to Earth and space was assembled into a litany of music tracks. Karate-like movements with punches, kicks, and angular shapes peppered the choreography (by Kimmie Dobbs Chan) throughout. Other movement motifs featured intricate arm waves and advanced floorwork. Along with dance on the stage space, there were also aerial movement sequences that included a solo hoop section and two bungee solos.
The aerial work was intriguing, but fairly under realized choreographically. At times during these sections, the work seemed to be slowing to a standstill. Although it was indeed interesting to watch the ethereal floating through space on the aforementioned pieces of apparatus, there was no formulaic structure within these segments. The pieces were accompanied by projections of stars and a ladder was used to rig the dancers before and after their elevated sequences.
The strongest sections finished the dance. First off, we received a video message from Mr. Chan as the Martian in outer space. The jump cut editing and spoken text provided an immediate understanding of what the rest of the piece had been foreshadowing. Chan had left Earth and was now sending a message that relayed his isolation and nostalgia for water. Most notably he missed the rain.
The closing trio, which was danced to a poem about Earth, is in contest for equal billing for the heavyweight section of Beyond. It featured the same small kinesphere choreographic style from the beginning of the piece, but included more emotional angst. The dancers slid, rolled, spiraled, and lunged in and out of the floor with an increased urgency. They reminded me of plants trying to desperately grow without the necessary sunlight or water. They ended holding hands and were joined by the rest of the cast for the final stage moment.