Ten Tiny Dances, Ten Tremendous Creations

by Emma Elsmo for The Dance Journal

They say good things come in small packages, and Mascher Space Cooperative’s presentation of Ten Tiny Dances embodied this sentiment through captivatingly stylized movement in the most unorthodox of stage spaces. All of the performers tackled the 4×4 stage space challenge with intense creative energy, which made this fundraiser-performance a melding of great choreographic minds. All pieces were a donation to the performance as a means of helping Mascher revamp the studio space’s well-loved dance floor.

The performance had an informal tone to it that enhanced the connection between audience members and artists. I was pleasantly greeted by tones of hushed conversations and cracking joints as the dancers warmed up throughout the space in complete disregarding of the fourth wall that so commonly separates viewers from performers. With a flickering of the lights, the show began when an undetected dancer unearthed herself from under infinite layers of shirts, sweaters, and dresses after having been frozen on the stage. This startling start by Lauren Jones of Almanac Dance Circus Theater simply set the tone for the explosion of outlandish and tiny dancing that ensued.

Allemande, choreographed by Dawn Pratson, incorporated live and recorded vocals as four dancers executed commands in the recorded music cha-cha slide style. With varying ages and movement qualities the piece came together the way a jigsaw puzzle would fit together- each piece unique in shape and style yet complimentary for perfect alignment. Margot Steinberg’s Two Close to Sink left the room echoing with laughter as a pair of dancers so humorously enacted a couple brushing their teeth. From the pajamas, they wore to the subtle touches and interactions, Sophie Davis and Derek Freeh slid their way across, up, and around the 4×4 stage with admirable ease and a contagious, bubbly energy.

The tone shifted to Ouroboros by Melisa Clark, a tango-esque, contemporary piece performed by two demure women. A silent contemplation beset the room as the two women wove between each other seamlessly with balletic upper body carriage and decisively sharp footwork. To close out the first half of the night, Katherine Stark’s Actor and The Leading Lady explored complex lifts and counter-balances between two dancing bodies accompanied by live cello. The flow of visible energy between the duo of Marisa Illingworth and Katherine Stark was as effortless as watching a leaf fall from a tree.

After a brief intermission, the amusement progressed as Kate Seethaler presented her work wait and see. Promoting audience interaction above all else, Seethaler unpacked toy microphones and various flashlights so the audience could create sound and lighting designs as she improved her way through the impromptu madness. Where do I begin? by Paige Phillips was filled with quirk and contradiction as a duet of movers delivered their characters in a way that was questionably mentally unstable. From laughing to crying to screaming the pair flopped their way from standing to sitting with intense ragdoll like quality in vibrantly clashing patterned costumes.

Annie Wilson’s cremeanglaise(Ruriden) was shockingly vibrant as placed LED lights surrounded the box and illuminated the room with harsh white light. The five dancers shuffled their way around the stage sporting black and royal blue circus-like costumes in an overly exaggerated emotional way. Thomas Cole Continued by Christina Gesualdi prompted reflection and questioning as Gesualdi mocked the nature of artists ruminating over art history by turning the audience into her artwork and speaking as though she were a historian. The closing piece of the evening was a bright, colorful and chaotic break down of the 4×4 stage as 14 dancers entered and destroyed the space around us. They played instruments and wore sequins and filled the space with the energy of a million in Curt Haworth’s In the Tiny Square, making it the quintessential ending to a playful night 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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