Review: Awakened Ruins

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By Lisa Kraus

Founder’s Hall at Girard College is one of those Philadelphia treasures you might never know about were it not for artists in search of great spaces. The Lawrence-Herchenroether Dance Company has staged a haunting Fringe event, Awakened Ruins, to animate this majestic 1847 National Historic Landmark.

The piece begins with the sound of Christopher Brooks’s violin spectacularly reverberating off the domed ceilings. Making use of long views from one space to another, five women dancers caked in white clay and wearing corseted muslin bodices progress through the three adjoining rotundas that were Girard College’s first classrooms.

Tori Lawrence’s choreography, replete with fine articulations and carefully placed tableaux, often resembles a slow-moving sculpture as much as a ‘dance.’

With its peeling layers of paint revealing layers of history, the “stabilized ruin” is traversed gradually by unison choruses sliding or pressing their way forward, duos lifting or lying with each other, and dynamic solos. One breakout moment recalls The Rite of Spring, both in pianist Patrick Fink’s rhythms and in the hunkered-down group stomps. In a recurring image one dancer seems to recall actions of classical ballet – repeatedly testing the turnout of her leg, or her ability to unfold into a grand extension.

 Memory, decay, and slow-moving time are rich elements of Awakened Ruins.

$20. 5 and 8 p.m. 9/17. Founder's Hall at Girard College, 2101 South College Ave.

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