Heartwarming Tributes: OPUS 1 Revives the Classics with a Contemporary Twist

by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal

The delightful collection of dancers who comprised the OPUS 1 performance on Saturday, April 7th at the Performance Garage, warmed hearts as they danced their way through the music of David Bowie and Depeche Mode.  Directors Lina McMenamin and Tim Early offered up three shows in total, each with a varying selection of pieces from different dance companies. There were four permanent works in each of the performances – Where Are We Now, Familiar, Personal Jesus, and Dr. Love; and the additional pieces of Mercy and Turn it Up, added an unexpected element to the already joyous evening.

The performance opened with Mercy, choreographed by Ryan Tuerk and danced by three movers from Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. This slower-moving work of hypnotic phrasing synthesized to form sublime and mesmerizing choreography. The performers delivered articulate lines with exquisite technique and provided the audience with accessible emotions which correlated flawlessly with the dramatic music.

The show progressed to Where Are We Now, a ten-piece composition by Lina McMenamin and Tim Early to David Bowie’s most beloved songs. Each section was performed by different arrangements of dancers from OPUS 1 Contemporary Dance Company, Brandywine Contemporary, and Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. An acapella version of Bowie singing “Under Pressure” followed by a video of birds eating to “I’m Afraid of Americans” provided the audience of middle-aged men and women with a pleasant flashback to the tunes of their youth. With the viewers singing along, the dancers executed intense unison work filled with turns, lifts, and leaps.

After an intermission, the show proceeded to charm as Kimberton Dance Academy took the stage for Turn it Up. In black mesh lined leotards, the dancers slayed as they twirled and snapped their way through Brittany Ryan’s complex choreography. Jazzy in style, the young movers captivated the audience and set the stage for the fast-paced second half of the show.

Familiar, an OPUS 1 work also choreographed by McMenamin and Early, brought the mood to a more serious place. The solemn collection of Agnes Obel songs provided the performers with ample amounts of tense emotional inspiration for their languid movements. Brandywine Contemporary’s performance of Tim Early’s Personal Jesus picked up the pace as their sharp movements and sparky energy complimented Depeche Mode’s rockin’ “Personal Jesus”. These youthful dancers consumed the space with their energized performance and clean lines.

From one high to the next, Dr. Love closed out the show with a heartwarming and happy vigor. The final work choreographed by the dynamic duo of McMenamin and Early left the audience dancing alongside the performers as they pulled their loved ones onstage. A touching amalgamation of classic and tender R&B songs accented by sultry choreography and cheesy lip-syncing proved to be the perfectly pleasurable ending to an already wonderful evening of dance.

About Emma Elsmo

A Chicago native, Emma Elsmo has been dancing since the mere age of two and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She began her formal dance training at the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park and has spent three summers training under Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's professional programs, as well as one summer spent with Deeply Rooted Dance Chicago. Currently, she is happy to be a part of several projects being created in the Philadelphia area. A lover of all things art related, Elsmo is currently getting a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from Temple University.

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2 Comments

  1. Emma, it is wonderful to experience your writing. It is as focused on your art as your perforing has been.
    May your many facetted work in dance offer you a lifetime creative achievements.

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