Spiel Uhr Fest 2014: Branching

Photo of Califia and the Trespassers at Group Motion’s Spiel Uhr
Photo by Alan DiBerio.

by Mackenzie Holmes for The Dance Journal

As night approaches on one of the first days of spring, a group of patient, soon to be audience members wait outside on the patio of the Community Education Center soaking in the last bits of sunlight.  Two dancers, dressed in all white, appear at the entryway to the building and motion everyone inside.  As we take our seats, the stage is reminiscent of the outdoor scene we just left behind. Dancers fill the space, poised in linear shapes and dressed in flesh colored unitards adorned with tree branch and leaf designs.  Group Motion’s presentation of Spiel Uhr Fest 2014: Branching had begun.

Califia choreographed by Manfred Fischbeck and Group Motion Dance Company focused on the inherent value of nature and the pain felt in its dismantling by humans.  The dancers began curled in a fetal position on the ground, arching their backs as their mesmerizing fingers reach and rolled through every possible position.  One is instantly reminded of a plant’s roots burrowing into the ground and coming to life.  Soloist, Ellie Goudie-Averill begins circling the dancers with a series of pedestrian runs. She moves with remarkable control, while delivering a narrative describing the “trespassers” and the destruction of the natural environment.  The corps of dancers continues their tree dance with moments of contact between them, tracing their fingers along each other’s bodies, as if they are assessing damage and offering support.  Their literal movements strengthen the message of how much nature has been impacted by humans.  The dancing body becomes a powerful medium for telling the story of the trees. As the piece progresses, the trees transition from strong, growing, swaying and free life forms to broken, angular, harsh and unnatural creatures.  They exit with a strong breathing pattern, reminding us that the trees are living “breathing” beings.

The next piece, Blue begins with soloist and choreographer Lindsay Browning kneeling on the ground facing the upstage diagonal.  There is a male figure standing still on stage watching her.  She crosses her arms over her head and curves her back like a startled cat, sheltering herself from the spotlight above her.  As the man, Marlo Reynolds, moves away, Browning touches her hair and walks toward a blue glowing bottle in the middle of the stage as the music begins.  Browning walks, one foot in front of the other as though on a tight rope, but instead of being nimble, her movements are cumbersome with legs that do not seem to function as intended.  Browning, like a baby animal taking its first steps, stumbles as she attempts to walk.  Suddenly, she pulls off her wig and tosses it to the ground. Her movement transitions to strong hits and slices that melt with an organic relaxed quality.  She has gone from embodying the discomfort of feeling blue, a sense of sadness or depression, to personifying the color blue in all its various shades, that can either pop out or bring a feeling of natural serenity.  The work draws to a close as Browning drinks the blue liquid from the bottle.  As she drinks the fingers of her free hand ball up into her palm with a tension that seems to say she doesn’t want to be “blue” again and leaves one wanting more of her story.

The evening ended on a seemingly light note with Follow Me Out, choreographed and performed by Sarah Galdwin Camp, Hannah de Keijzer, and Gregory Holt.  The piece with its singing, shouting, and playing in big cardboard boxes was reminiscent of what a child would do when left alone in a big room with no one watching.  The dancers shuffled around in boxes big enough to conceal their entire bodies.  At one point, a dancer grooves to the music in the confined space of the box, as if having their own personal dance party.  When finished with the boxes, two of the dancers perform a phrase filled with forceful jumps and releases of the upper body that look like they are letting go. This is contrasted by the remaining dancer,  who circles the stage in a low level crawl that is restricted and regimented.  Eventually, all three dancers are crawling and following one another around in a circle. The piece draws to a close with a sequence of movement that feels very different from the free, childlike mood in the beginning.

Mackenzie Holmes is a senior Philosophy major with dual minors in dance performance and applied ethics at West Chester University.

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