REVIEW: “Inner Voice” by Gin Dance Company with guest DancEthos

From the DC Dance Journalism Project

REVIEW: Inner Voice by Gin Dance Company with guest DancEthos
By Matthew Rock

Clanks, dings, and honks of cars quickly filled the theatre as this soundscape laid the foundation for the beginning of “Inner Voice,” an amalgamate of contemporary ballet works choreographed by Shu-Chen Cuff and Tiffany Haughn.

The busy street sounds that set the stage for Lost and Found, choreographed by Cuff and performed by Gin Dance Company, were quite familiar, just without all the angst of an actual busy street. As six dancers took the stage, wearing black and white business suits with heels and slowly transitioning from one pedestrian pose to another, the movement began to hasten and adopt a hurried texture to match the soundscape. The movement kept the mannerisms of ballet, with the strong epaulement and linear and extended lines, but it also incorporated intricate gestural patterns with the hands, fingers, and feet. The dancers would briskly flick their feet behind them, grasp the air with their hands, and close their fists slowly, showing each movement of the fingers.

The movement would flow smoothly from individual gestures to pitter-pattering across the stage to darting sauté jumps. Each dancer seemed to have their own unique phrase that they went in and out of, revealing parts of their inner voice. Each phrase included varied quirky movements such as shaking torsos in a second plié, contracting torsos in a possé relévé, or gestural poses with expressions of impatience, contemplation, and surprise.

As Lost and Found kept moving and the individual phrases broke into three separate duets, some beautiful images were created, and I found myself wanting to linger with those images just a tad longer. The movement seemed to skim through the suspended moments and was sometimes unable to find the breath in the sequence. This gave a mono-dynamic feeling to the piece as a whole. Overall, the piece featured strong, technical ensemble work and the unison parts were all in sync. The brisk energy of the piece was kept up and moving, and not to mention, it was all performed in heels. It was a delight to see a snippet of each dancers character/inner voice throughout as well.

To start the next piece, a dancer standing downstage right wearing a weighted, dark grey tunic began moving in a legato rhythm, scooping the space with her arms. The piece, entitled 1 by 1, choreography by Tiffany Haughn on Gin Dance Company, continued with another solo dancer, undulating and contracting her torso upstage right. This pattern of a dancer standing in each corner of the stage continued leading into quartet ensemble work, carving through the space as they traveled across stage and delineated strength and control through their gestural yet grand movement.

Another piece that exhibited qualities of strength and support was Convergence, choreographed by Tiffany Haughn and performed by Jenny Flemingloss and Catherine Roth of DancEthos. This duet started center stage with a long, wooden bench which the dancers sat on, jumped on, slid under, and shared support with.

One image that stayed with me was seeing the dancers acknowledge each other for the first time after dancing and sharing the bench space. They were on each end of the bench with their backs towards each other. They laid down and arched their backs so that they could see each other and noticed each other for the first time in this interesting, upside-down image.

Another beautiful image that was created was when the dancers maneuvered the bench upside-down, and one of the pair rolled and laid on the side of the bench; the image seemed to be cut short and would have been dynamic to see lengthened in that flow of sequences.

As the closing piece Hello! Goodbye!, choreographed by Shu-Chen Cuff and performed by Gin Dance Company, took way, seven dancers in leotards and bottoms that were vibrant hues of pink, red, green, blue, and purple painted the space as they formed clumps, lines, and opposing groups. Scurrying and sauté jumping about, they chased each other on and off stage surprising each other and bringing back their quirky characters and gestural movement we started with.

At moments, the relationship amongst the dancers seemed a little obscure. Why was the one dancer being chased? What made the dancer’s expressions and performance qualities change from an upset demeanor to a comical, sly expression? The through line seemed to waver a bit, but the ensemble’s dancing and performance was cohesive, precise, and whimsical. They connected with the audience through their jubilant, comical expressions and mannerisms.

Overall, Gin Dance Company and DancEthos performed a beautiful evening of intricate and gestural contemporary balletic movement. As each dancer let their inner voice be heard through their movement, it resonated with the audience that we all have our own unique inner voice that we sometimes hide. Through their movement and performance, they left us with the idea that we should embrace our true colors and let our inner voices be heard, or in this case, seen.