Live review | COLEctive Notions
A child’s personality can appear alongside a flash of his or her parent’s in harmony or dissonance. A choreographer who’s come of age dancing the work of another can likewise make creations that fill or break that mold. This is what makes any company’s choreographic workshop interesting; I’m glad that letting dancers flex their creative muscles in-house has become increasingly common over the past few years.
One of the more recent groups to pick up the trend is the Dance COLEctive, a 15-year-old project of contemporary-dance maker and educator Margi Cole. Cole’s work , and during “COLEctive Notions,” a second annual program of dancers’ creations, , one sees flashes of her past, her present and—in a genealogical sense—her future.
And, naturally, flashes of things completely different. The six short works (with intermission, totaling exactly one hour) are like siblings determined to be assessed on their own merits. The second, Jessica Post and her cast’s Brushing by, Sweeping Through, begins with four dancers clumped together, gently stirring and responding as if quadruplets in the womb. Wearing white and copper costumes by Stacy Doris, each gradually wins her own space, although in the end, they’re back together, one pressing her palm outward as the lights fade, against an invisible membrane that stretches but won’t break.
Show opener Peripheral Distance, also a collaboration and directed by Maggie Koller, also begins with four women in a clump, although these figures are bound more tightly. Moving toward us from upstage, dancers in the back of the group fight their way to the front, only to be replaced likewise by the new back of the group, a single cell that reassembles itself each moment it divides. AM Brother and Steve Daniels’s original score is relaxed and vaguely hip, lobby music in a chic hotel, matching Koller’s engaging if somewhat static world. Most of Koller’s play with energetic volume comes in the beginning, much like when a kid grabs hold of a dimmer switch: Up and down, giddily, up and down, until told to stop. Its ending, the quartet’s drifting away from us along four diverging tracks, is suddenly melancholy and mysterious.
Epilogue, Kaitlin Bishop’s collaboration, another quartet, might be the most choreographically accomplished if yet another work to Philip Glass. I’ll grant that Bishop actually listens to Glass’s music, and she fills the space as fully as does Rachel Damon’s desert-hot then frigid white lighting design. (Damon illuminates all of the evening’s works, with characteristic variety and sensitivity.)
Bishop’s program note is a Joanna Newsom lyric, from “Baby Birch” (“And in the back of what we’ve done/there is the knowledge of you”) but it feels more like a sideways look at female soldiers’ lives, what with the performers clad in plain olive and khaki wear and frequent pairings-off in which one dancer, hunched over, either supports or is oppressed by another hunched over. Molly Grimm-Leasure’s sudden fall is real, puncturing the formal, dancerly abstraction. As she, Post and Olivia May continue their business with growing detachment and robotic efficiency, Koller removes herself to wander among them, not necessarily seeking connection but curious as to why the others are content to soldier on expressionless, their eyes glazed over.
Grimm-Leasure’s Strangest is a waking dream/nightmare for three dancers, featuring a music box that plays “Memory” from Cats in brisk 3/4 time, not bad but still a sketch; on second thought, a quintet corralled by Alaina Murray, has a mix of pond-touching, mystic preciousness and deep-seated unease that led me to imagine Isadora Duncan overcome by a panic attack. May’s Niche, to music by Thrill Jockey’s Chicago Underground quartet, was the oddest exercise I’ve seen in a bit: Two dancers (Murray and Katie Petrunich) in forest creature outfits complete with little leaves and blossoms sewn on, dance essentially as one, their fingers splayed or crawling over each other’s bodies like cuddly beetles in a cartoon biosphere.