Hailing from the Boston area, contemporary dance group Ruckus Dance made its first Philadelphia appearance this past weekend as part of the 2018 Philly Fringe Festival. According to “anti-choreographer” Michael Figueroa, Ruckus aims to both provoke conversation and bewilder the viewer, driving audiences to ask questions about the logic of what is happening before them.
Their debut in Philadelphia got off to a slightly late start with a few minor technical difficulties, while the audience was treated to the dancers warming up on stage. Hey, it wouldn’t be a proper Philly greeting otherwise! Working with local Philadelphia-based guest artists – Isaac Lindy, Kate Seethaler, and Steph Turner, and featuring a special performance by Boston-based tap company, Subject: Matter, the show examined the sense and mechanics of relationships.
Because of the informality with the audience in seeking their patience for the late start, it was not quite clear when Figueroa’s new solo I love you in real time actually began, but I suspect that was exactly his intention. Clearly, Figueroa likes to explore boundaries, as well as the interplay between performer and audience. It is this sense of humor, approachability, and informality which makes this work so refreshing. Spinning wildly with dumbbell weights in each of his hands, while dressed in just boxer shorts, he began a dialog and verbal interplay with the audience that continued as he moved freely through the bleacher seating at the Performance Garage and eventually to the stage. There was a feeling of spontaneity but also one of creating a social environment and exchange.
As Figueroa began to wind down, the crew set up tap boards in the background on stage leading into the next segment, Roger That! with brother and sister tap team, Pam and Jack Rodgers. With music from Stompin’ at the Savoy, this duo pulled out all the stops, with both choreographed syncopation mixed with moments of improvisation. The chemistry between this duo whether intentional or not maintained a sense of the push and pull, and independence and interdependence of relationships.
After a brief pause, the program resumed with Knock Out, which originally premiered in 2016 at The Dance Complex’s CATALYST Series in Cambridge, MA. With the full cast now on stage, KnockOut was literally a numeric matrix utilizing numbered dance phrases and a call structure. Each performer would leave the stage one at a time to call out numbers, setting rules and structure in which the dancers had to make real-time decisions to obey or disobey. These sequences continued until the dancers brought about their own exhaustion, leaving the stage. Throughout this production, we bear witness to the power of the collective as well as that of the individual, so central to the concept of relationships and community. In essence, the piece was about the core of Ruckus Dance which values collectivist work, while upholding the integrity and spirit of the individual.
The original Ruckus dancers featured were Terina-Jasmine Alladin, Michael Figueroa, and Marissa Molinar, joined by Boston Conservatory students and alumni Kate Gow, Rayne Raney and Laila Franklin, along with the Philly crew Isaac Lindy, Kate Seethaler, and Steph Turner. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of this company in the future in Philadelphia!
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