by Merilyn Jackson for The Inquirer
Tui is the Maori name for a black bird with a small white tuft at its throat. When the English came to New Zealand, its native habitat, they named it the parson bird. Tuis are honey eaters; they have two voice boxes, and some of their sounds range beyond human hearing. On opening night at Subcircle’s Christ Church fall run, called Seed, Gin MacCallum and Niki Cousineau danced like two wavering voices that hushed us and left us craving to hear and see them.
Cousineau and MacCallum choreographed, and New Zealand’s Carol Brown, who has worked with Subcircle and Group Motion here in past years, directed. Jorge Cousineau created a spare and moody set, vaguely reminiscent of the Mutter Museum, with glass-doored specimen cabinets on either side. His video screen runs on a wide band across the stage and slowly morphs through organic, sepia-toned scenes. The Cousineaus run Subcircle and are both recent, and very deserving, independent recipients of Pew Fellowships.
I can’t stress enough how enjoyable it was to see MacCallum dance here again, after her departure from Philadelphia. She’s an artist whose mysterious quality reminds me of a 19th-century poet – frail, romantic, possibly a little shy or neurotic. Paired with Cousineau’s cool rationality, it made for a glorious frisson that lasted throughout the one-hour dance theater piece. Together they wove a spellbinding web of fantasy.