Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: "Ties That Bind" at the Bride

"Ties that Bind," seen at the Painted Bride over the weekend, exemplified, through the choreography of three Philadelphia dance makers, just how this dance community creatively pools its resources, says critic Merilyn Jackson.

Review: "Ties That Bind" at the Bride


By Merilyn Jackson

“Ties that Bind,” seen at the Painted Bride over the weekend, exemplified, through the choreography of three Philadelphia dance makers, just how this  dance community creatively pools its resources.
The first two works, by Jennifer Morley and Olive Prince, employed rigging hanging from the fly and told stories, while Nora Gibson's was strictly abstract floor work.

Morley presented Bearing Fruit, a poetic and mythic narrative. Ellie Goudie-Averil and another dancer, wrapped like chrysalises in hammocks, unwound themselves to join the others, including Beau Hancock, the man born of a peapod in this story. Though it works as dance theater, the choreography was so quietly basic it could not have held the attention without the storyline.

In Prince’s Under Desire, the choreography was often gratifyingly surprising, but I could not find a link between her intention to portray what people feel compelled to do before they turn 87 (as she stated in the program notes) and the actual dancing. Morley, Prince, Elizabeth Reynolds, Caitlin Hellerer and Jennifer Rose all looked Olympian in Heidi Barr’s creamy tunics and danced like goddesses too, especially Rose and Prince. I could not guess what the extended use of the fog machine could have meant, except perhaps as a dreamlike device.

If I had seen these two dances on a program by themselves, they might have compared more favorably, as they were good efforts. They were just not strong enough — choreographically in the first case,  and in the second, in achieving intention — when up against Gibson’s innovative choreography and vividly met intent.

As did her 2010 Vested Souls, Gibson’s Trinity — Phase II took my breath away, this time from its first step to its final genuflection. Gibson uses clean, sharp minimalist ballet positions in a pedestrian manner, that is, she and her dancers, Jessica Warchal-King and Eiren Shuman in soft ballet slippers, sharply walk us through them. The formal preparations for a movement phrase are often strictly reversed; there is very little bent-knee work, except as preparation. Front-dipping penché arabesques spin away in the opposite direction. Certain choreographies, for ineffable reasons, remind me of Lucinda Childs, in whose work Gibson was pinpoint perfect a month ago at the Performance Garage. Gibson achieves a severely focused intellectual beauty with her chest out-shoulders down-chin forward perfect form.

Mikronesia’s Michael Reiley McDermott played his often arpeggiated electronic score live onstage.

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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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