Review of DUENDE- Break My Echo

by Ashabi Rich for The Dance Journal | photo credit: Bill Hebert

On Friday, September 8th, Jeanne Ruddy, co-owner of the evening’s hosting venue, The Performance Garage, and herself an esteemed dance artist and choreographer got the program off to a gracious start with a warm and welcoming introduction. Ruddy introduced the co-founders of the company, composer Alyssa Weinberg, cellist Gabriel Cabezas, and superlative choreographer-dancer Chloe Felesina Perkes. In addition to Cabezas, the dance and music collective’s magnificent musicians who provided the ear fest and rounded out the quartet were Jordon Dodson on acoustic and electric guitar, Alex Sopp on flute, piccolo, and vocals, and Jason Treuting on percussion which included a colorful guiro ( a Brazilian instrument).  Masterful with each instrument, along with the four initially noted, they also played, electric guitar, castanets, and sang.

The mise en scene of the stage exuded an atmosphere of calm, organization, distinct separation, and command. Piquing the audience’s anticipation from the stage of the Performance Garage, were four chairs, sheet music stands, and instruments either upon a table, leaning against a table, or standing independently alone. Adjacent to its relevant chair, each of which occupied a quadrant of space along the back edge and two sides of the stage, was a set of trap drums, a cello, a flute, and an acoustic guitar. This precise setting rested confidently in the illumination of the serene blue lights anchored in diagonal pairings above the stage. Everything appeared precisely at the ready_ and thus it was.

This company of dancers and musicians had been aptly named.  Duende, as a “contemporary dance collective,” is an eye and ear feast.” Featuring musicians from So Percussion and yMusic, this experimental dance and music combination is dynamically unique and powerfully creative. The choreography holds your full attention, steadily amazing the eyes, emotions, and mind with its interplay of interpretive movement to the richly wonderful music. The music consists of new scores based on a melody from the late composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, a lauded and controversial composer of the late 20th and early 21st century.  The composition, Zodiac-inspired Tierkries (German for zodiac), is, in this case, the one written for the sign of Virgo. The Tierkries composition is Stockhausen’s most popular composition. Since July 6, 2009 in Cologne, “the melody from Tierkreis corresponding to the current zodiac sign is played daily at noon on the 48-bell carillon in the tower of the Cologne Town Hall as a tribute to the composer. Thus this explains Duende’s performance musical choice of September’s Virgo melody.

Duende, defined as a quality of passion and inspiration, describes this company in spades. Colby Damon is fluid, flexible, strong, passionate, diverse, multi-leveled, and precise. His talent is gargantuan and indefatigable. He is amazing to watch.   Keila Perez-Vega is mesmerizing.  Her enormous talent and technique is highlighted by her sculptured face, willowy form, and undeniable beauty. In simply being all that she is, Perez-Vega lights up a stage. Then there is Chloe Perkes, an unbelievable powerhouse of creativity, strength, joy, and execution.  Collectively, these three work excellently in any combination together, with the music and musicians, and as soloists. They are each a very fine instrument of consummate artistry. Their intriguing and complex movement is embraced by the simple and elegant lines of their dance attire.

It should be noted that the audience was in such awe of what kept unfolding on the stage that (thankfully) they refrained from the interruption of applause. Too often, some of the hard work of an artist is drowned out, the mood and intended ending, interrupted and truncated by audiences who clap at every opportunity. Too often this applause is misplaced, more enthusiastic than appropriate, robbing the artists of finishing the expression of the work as they have so carefully rehearsed it.  I wanted to hug this audience! Duende, also meaning a quality of passion and inspiration, was just too magnificent, too explosive, too tender, too creative and thoroughly satisfying to interrupt. The thousands of hours these artists have spent in honing their art on an individual basis is very apparent. Their lush performances are a statement of verity to their dedication and enormous talent. And then, as if their honed artistry wasn’t filling enough for our souls, with a piece featuring Damon, they add in a critically relevant and socially responsible statement on the sad state of our earthly environment while offering a scientifically based solution to our climate dilemma.

They say of themselves that, “Duende is a collaboration not locked into discipline but into art. It is the spirit that links art, artist and audience.” The dancers and the sounds are like whirling molecules that form into exquisite crystal creations that dazzle and purify. Perkes, as the puppet master to the Latin dancing couple of Damon and Perez-Vega, is a terrifyingly, stunning and wonderful powerhouse.  She seemingly draws energy out of the air and is corrupted, reveling with delight by the force and control she can wield. She is a dazzling instrument of dance. Explosive with her power, meticulous with her technique. Her passion. indeed that of all of the dancers, is tied into the depths of their individual and collective essences. It seems that as they must breathe to live, so must they also dance. This is a company that you will want to see repeatedly because they are outstanding. They “bring it” and leave it all on the stage.

At the end I was more than happy to stand to finally give such richly deserved applause.


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