by Mackenzie Holmes for The Dance Journal
Philadelphia Dance Projects presented the work of Nora Gibson and John Scott at the Performance Garage on Friday, February 28, 2014. The choreographers, from two different continents, presented dissimilar dance styles but both accentuated the strength and purposefulness of their performers. The stage, without a backdrop or curtains, created an intimate atmosphere that fit well with both of the choreographers’ works.
The evening began with Nora Gibson’s spellbinding, balletic piece, Temporal Objects. The classical movement in conjunction with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #14 had an air of familiarity. However, Clifford Greer’s lighting score, filled with harsh flashes of light, created an unfamiliar and mesmerizing perspective. The five female dancers, dressed in black leotards and long black sheer skirts were the ideal canvas for both the choreography and the artistic lighting. The piece had repetitive movements but the lighting changes reinvented the steps and kept them from becoming stale. The lighting complimented the dancers beautiful lines and even their moments of stillness drew one’s eye. Each dancer moved in their individual style and brought the ballet vocabulary to life. At one point they did a phrase that looked like a traditional ballet center floor combination, but with such a high level of precision that I wanted to see more. Throughout the performance it looked as if the dancers were going to collide, but they never did. This juxtaposition of bodies in space emphasized each dancer’s silhouette. Temporal Bodies and its striking lighting score celebrated the pure beauty of the various lines within the dancing body.
After intermission, Michelle Boulé and Phillip Connaughton performed the captivating Body Duet choreographed by John Scott. The duet personified awkwardness and discomfort, beginning with the performers clenching and relaxing their fingers as if they had a nervous tick. Throughout the piece, there were moments of uncomfortable contact between the dancers. I wanted to look away but I could not. Boulé and Connaughton danced and interacted without boundaries, similar to small children playing. At one point, they both shouted the word “blowing” and Connaughton blew on Boulé’s fingers, took her hand in his, and struck her face with it. They showed how childlike people can become in their relationships even as “adults”. Their unique chemistry allowed for a series of movements where they both continued to dance together, while holding onto and reading from an iPad. They alternated between speaking the words they were reading and finishing each others sentences. Although they seemed to effortlessly move together physically; verbally and emotionally they were fighting.
Throughout the piece their movement fit together perfectly when they were in contact with one another, yet their personal movement styles could not have been any more different. Connaughton continuously stomped his feet and spastically moved his hands like they were covered in something he desperately wanted to get rid of. Boulé looked transcendent with constantly searching eyes and arm movements reminiscent of leaves floating in the wind. The exposure of a couple who could often work together physically yet were polar opposites created a clear image of a relatable, dysfunctional relationship.
Philadelphia Dance Projects brought together two very different works. Gibson expressed the beauty of the individual body, while Scott displayed the entanglement of two bodies and personalities within one relationship. The images may have been dissimilar but they complemented one another remarkably well.
Mackenzie Holmes is a senior Philosophy major with dual minors in dance performance and applied ethics at West Chester University.