Monday, August 31, 2015

Dance Review

Philadelphia Dance Project's international dance pairing of Philly's Nora Gibson and Ireland's John Scott.

Dance Review


An international dance pairing


These days, there is as much a global arts scene as a global economy.

Terry Fox, executive director of Philadelphia Dance Projects, curates programs that partner Philadelphia dance groups with others from across the country. On Thursday night at the Performance Garage, she made her first international match: Nora Gibson's Temporal Objects and, from Ireland, John Scott's Body Duet.

The two works looked and sounded out of sync. Yet among the common denominators were devotion to technique, razor-sharp dancing, and a laserlike vision of each work's arc.

Gibson, who founded the Nora Gibson Performance Project here in 2009, is a serious choreographer who braces her works with the formalism of her ballet training, then isolates those movement phrases into still frames. For Temporal Objects, she and four other women often stood off to the side posed in first position, while one or more of them pivoted in sheer, floor-length black skirts and soft ballet slippers.

Jessica Warchal-King was the principal cog in the Gibson machine as it instantaneously changed directions. Erin Gallagher, Melissa McCarten, and Meredith Stapleton wheeled around with the intensity the piece demanded. Gibson, a small dynamo, was most fascinating to watch. Chin tucked slightly into her chest, perfect port-de-bras, she moved through Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 as if trying to erase every other beat. Lighting designer Clifford Greer emphasized this impression with 14 LED floodlights computerized to stutter on and off seemingly at her will.

Brooklyn-based Michelle Boulé and Dublin's Philip Connaughton turned in a tour-de-fierce performance of Scott's Body Duet, externalizing interior emotions after sexual betrayal - beginning with silent contact-improv that looked like hand-to-hand combat, and moving through synchronized side-by-side sections.

They announced hand gestures, used text to illustrate movement, traded syllables they read from text on an iPad, body-slammed, roughly flipped into each other's arms, screamed, and literally blew each other away.

By the end, the score by Blackfish (James Everest and Joel Pickard, a Minneapolis/Dublin collaboration) took on a chantlike quality as Boulé and Connaughton tenderly carried each other in awkward positions. It felt like the holiness of love and forgiveness.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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