REVIEW: “Wintersteps” by Dissonance Dance Theatre at the Jack Guidone Theater

REVIEW Dissonance Dance Theatre: Wintersteps

by Christina Lindenmuth

Bringing in the New Year can certainly put time into perspective, and for Dissonance Dance Theatre, the year 2017 means a celebration of their 10th anniversary as DC’s leading contemporary ballet company. This means a year full of performances, and the kick-off was this weekend’s show Wintersteps at the Jack Guidone Theater.

A small crowd was sprinkled throughout the chairs in the audience as the dancers took the stage. I was instantly impressed by the company members’ physique and athletic abilities. The emphasis on traditional ballet was refreshing to see. They dance as if clean lines, pointed toes, triple pirouettes, and petit allegro come naturally to them (although I know it does not!), and their impeccable technique was astonishing.

A great example of this was “Scars on My Memory,” choreographed by Artistic Director Shawn Short, in which a large group ensemble expresses the pains and joys we all experience within different relationships. There were interchanging solos, duets, love triangles, and other small groups demonstrating different scenarios, sometimes cheerful with leaps and layouts, and at times downtrodden and desolate. Although the individual performers executed their skills flawlessly, it seemed as if the piece was new to them as it was a bit unclean.

My favorite piece of the evening, “The Road,” also choreographed by Short, hit the crowd with a freight train of emotion. Soloist William Wilson started on the floor, lying on his stomach with a balled up fist behind his back, as if fighting the urge to cry himself to sleep. His floor work included twisting and balancing, and once he was off the floor, he executed leaps and turns with ease. After suffering a whirlwind of pain, he collapsed on the floor, and soloist Jessica Pots cautiously slinked over to him. She tried to comfort him with fanatical hugs and tender posing and weight sharing. At first he resists, suggesting that she was the cause of his pain. Towards the end of the piece, their movement seemed more uplifting and hopeful for forgiveness, with their focus towards the sky and reaching upwards, standing close together but without touching.

“Concursus,” an impressive demonstration of athleticism was a creation by Dissonance Dance Theatre’s first international choreographer, Davy Brun. The moment the trio that made up the cast ran out on stage into their first stunt, the never-ending series of intricate flips and tosses began. Dancers Shannon Evans, Phillip Fobbs, and Damon L. Foster performed each lift seamlessly and unabashedly. Brun’s partnering choreography was new, unconventional, and certainly entertaining.

There were moments of tonight’s show that I really enjoyed, but overall the evening’s production was a bit of a let down for me. The audience was small, and it seemed as though a few of the pieces were underperformed. A few numbers could have used some extra rehearsals to fix timing issues and such. The show’s program was also confusing and a bit out of order.

Dissonance Dance Theatre, with three more shows coming up, will certainly be busy in this New Year. Tonight’s show may have been rushed, but the 2017 line up, glimpses of excitement in pieces like “Concursus,” and the impressive skill level of the dancers leaves me hopeful for an amazing 10th year for Dissonance Dance Theatre.