REVIEW: Gin Dance Company presents “Spring in Your Step” at Atlas Intersections Festival
by Michelle Hayes
Gin Dance Company’s “Spring in Your Step,” presented at the Atlas Intersections Festival, was an evening of delightful, high energy, and reflective dance. The evening included three pieces by Artistic Director Shu-Chen Cuff and one piece by guest choreographer Tiffany Haughn. Each piece seemed to honor and highlight the individual dancers within the context of the group through individual movement, gestures, and personality.
“1 by 1,” choreographed by Tiffany Haughn, was a modern dance piece to the music of Zoe Keating that utilized floor rolls, inversions, and flexed feet. Though some of the movement choices didn’t push the envelope, there was a sense of moving forward throughout the piece as the dancers traveled through diagonal and circular special patterns and performed steps that spoke to this forward motion, such as an attitude with an upper body twist. The attack in the movement gave a sense of moving through a slight struggle. The facial expressions were filled with concentration and little emotion, and the dancers seemed to get their drive from the music. The dancers worked well together as a group, though they could have brought their energy level up so that it felt more performance than the execution of a combination in a class.
“Solitaire,” choreographed by Shu-Chen Cuff, started with four dancers entering the stage. Three dancers carried amazingly detailed large canvas portraits of themselves. As quickly as they came on, the three dancers with paintings left the stage leaving a soloist.
Samantha Greymont, the first soloist, danced with movement that was linear in its use of space and had many flicks of the feet and hands. The presentational approach was satisfying as Greymont took us into her world. I felt as though she was sharing herself and her personality with us. She was strong and a little flirty and fun in her quick jumps, twists, and hops. In the program, her role was characterized as “tenacious,” which I could see in the confidence and strength of her movements and presentation. She exited the stage, and seconds later, all four dancers came on, three with their portraits. The one without the portrait was the next to present her solo, in a transition pattern that would repeat between each solo.
The second soloist, Therese Gahl, exuded sweetness with circular movements, smiles at the audience, and a playful light skip in her steps. She repeated an eye-catching hand gesture where she would frame her face, and she often pointed her finger in different directions around the space. I imagined her as a young girl dancing in her room and sharing the experience with us.
Next, Michelle Conroy, playing the “cognitive” character, was much more proper and mature in her subtle changes in folded hand placements and shifts around the spotlight on the floor. Her solo was more balletic, featuring deep luscious rond de jambes, glissades, and tendus. Her hands were often in a fist creating dominance, and she exuded wisdom and knowledge..
After one more transition and chance to look at the paintings, Lindsey Garrett graced the stage with her beautiful flowy arms and great extensions. Her costume, a black dress with pink flowers at the bottom, gave an image of her being a butterfly fluttering through space. Throughout the piece she would extend her back into a beautiful arch as if taking in the sunshine. She took on the “endearing” character with great success, moving and emoting in a captivating manner. The piece as a whole was a great representation of four beautiful and individual voices.
After this piece, Shu-Chen Cuff entered the closed curtain stage and began talking about how people often ask her how she and her dancers remember all the movements they have to perform. She went on to describe how in ballet, the steps have names which helps with remembering, while in modern, images or words are often created to remember the movement. She brought out two dancers, dressed in one piece cranberry jumpers to demonstrated these two ideas. On the spot, Cuff gave them about ten different ballet steps for the dancers to piece together into a phrase. Cuff did not demonstrate but merely used the words. The dancers had no idea what the movements would be, and we could see they were concentrating hard to get the phrase correct. They did the movements with ease.
Then Cuff demonstrated a phrase of modern movement without using words. The dancers learned the movement and put words like slice and over the head to remember the phrase. Next Cuff invited some audience members to come onto the stage to experience this process. Audience members were asked to put names to the movements. They said “pick an apple” for a reach up to the sky, “make an apple pie” was the hands swirling around each other, and “throw the apple to a friend” was an arm gesture throwing something. This was a fun way to bring the audience into the world of creating dance.
“Burgundy,” also choreographed by Cuff, was a large group piece full of highly technical ballet steps and quirky arm and hand gestures. There was an in and out concept that was seen in many of the movements, such arms coming close to the body and brushing away and a hip shifting motion. This piece was about the movement and enjoying the trained dancers share their passion of dancing for me.
The final piece, “Hello! Goodbye!,” was a playful finale to the show. The dancers danced with and around each other, making funny faces and laughing along the way. It felt like a conversation through movement. There was a duet where I felt this to be especially evident: the pair took turns dancing while the other listened. After the back and forth, they danced together, as if in acceptance of each other’s voices. They seemed like sisters, mirroring each other, having fun and even squeezing in a hug or two. The whole piece was filled with leaps, cute leg flicks to the side, and flexed hands. This was a fun energetic way to end the evening.
It was delightful to see well-crafted, well-trained dancers sharing their spunk, individuality, and creativity with the audience. In all four pieces, the music acted as inspiration for the rhythms and energy of the movements. As promised by the title, the dancers had a spring in their step in this enjoyable show.