Student Author Program – Review: I Am We

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By Kristen Gillette for The Dance Journal
Photos by Bill Hebert

This review is part of the Dance Journal’s Student Author Program. Kristen studies journalism at Temple University and has written for a wide variety of publications, including Philly2Night.com, two.one.five. Magazine, and Cred Magazine, working to expand her knowledge of music and the arts. Other publications she’s interned for include Technically Philly and MetroKids Magazine. After taking dance lessons as a child, Kristen returned to ballet as an adult and blogs about her experience at Adultballerinaproject.com.

 

Artistic Director Amy Harding presented two new contemporary works in Alchemy Dance Company’s Home Season Show March 1st-3rd. The two pieces took different cracks at exploring human relationships; Follies, the first act poked fun at social interactions and structures while I Am We aimed at creating the notion that while we are separate bodies, we are one.

The first segment, So Here We Are, first introduces all six company members. They wear playful costumes: dress pants and suspenders. Kaitlyn Clark and Leslie Ann Pike really win us over with their comical piece, In The Pocket. Their facial expressions say it all as they frown and grin and teasingly push each other out of the way in an “anything you can do, I can do better” manner.

Carried Away, unfortunately for soloist Susanne McHugh, seems to exist as merely a transition between pieces. While McHugh dances, Rachel Dorr and Pike are in the background changing costumes, and I found myself more curious about how they were hiding ruffled shorts underneath their pants than McHugh’s solo.

The next segment, Romp and Circumstance, has a Parisian feel that Harding later echoes in her solo Teaser, as she’s dressed as a mime. It appears to be a simple trio, until dancers Dorr and Pike begin shooting finger guns towards Kevan Sullivan in slow motion. They punch him, knee him and then exit the stage, leaving Sullivan collapsed on the floor.  His duet, Restless, with Clark begins as she walks on stage.

Follies ends with another full company piece to original music by Assistant Director Jonathan Bowles with a strong, electronic beat complemented by precise, rigid movements. In a line, the dancers run towards the front, their hands clasped together, their faces almost pleading for help. They turn and run back, collapsing center stage as the lights fade out.

The second work, I Am We, is more serious and contains more solos with a lot of repeated phrases. Dressed in simple flesh-toned costumes that give the appearance of being nude, so as to allow the dancing to speak for itself without distraction, the company members shiver and cower as they move towards the light source at one side of the stage, jumping back in fear at times. Finally, they get close enough to feel the light. McHugh’s solo Inside Out as well as Dorr’s solo Take Me Home deploy these same techniques.

While Sullivan’s Initiation, also uses the same cowering and shamefulness, he’s able to bring it to a whole other level. While Sullivan cowers and hits himself much like Dorr does, he also slams his full body weight into the ground. I gasped every time imagining the pain.

Naked Humor provides some comic relief, echoing the first half of the evening. Dorr, McHugh, and Pike poke fun at their naked appearance on stage: they stand with their backs facing inwards towards each other and repeatedly try to hide exposed body parts.

In Me and Myself, Mara Ranson performs the entire piece from a kneeling position, representing one half, while Clark is standing, representing the other half. Sometimes their motions line up and seem to mirror each other for a split second; the rest seems unconnected and doesn’t quite seem to represent the meaning of two parts to one whole.

During most of Standing, Sullivan seems to be supporting Ranson: as she moves away, he pulls her back into an embrace. Then, Ranson leans on him at the end—instead of lifting her back up, he steps away. She collapses to the floor.

The last two pieces—For Love and Nothing and Everything and One—are the only two of the night that blur together; everything else transitioned nicely. Pike angrily slams flowers into the ground as it starts. She shoves herself into the ground, grabbing at her own heart. Everyone enters, shivering and cowering. Pike walks to the back after picking up the flowers, and tosses them like a bride tossing individual flower bouquets. They each take a flower and come together in the center. Reaching towards the sky, they are one again.

 

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