By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal
Caleb Teicher & Company performed to a full crowd this past Saturday. Teicher was making his Philadelphia premier as part of the Annenberg Center Live series. I was curious to see what this still young (founded in 2015) company had to offer. Teicher comes from a diverse background ranging from Broadway to company member of Dorrance Dance. His company utilizes a mix of styles including tap, vernacular jazz, and lindy hop. I was intrigued by this blend of genres and anticipated a lively, fast paced program. Teicher’s music selection instead brought a different mood that was intriguing and unexpected.
Variations was a tap piece that opened the performance. Selections by Bach made for an interesting choice in music. Teicher had a strong build to this piece that began with his own solo. Here we saw him fluid in his movements with intricate syncopation that played well with the melody. Naomi Funaki joined him onstage and their duet offered counter-rhythms that kept the subdued mood set by Bach more engaging. Charles Renato was next to join them onstage. Alternating between solo, duo and trio work kept the pace moving well. The overall tone for the dance was light and playful; again, countering the mood of the music. The light design by Serena Wong brought an additional element that highlighted the loco-motor movements and spatial patterns of the performers. A rectangle created in white light gave the dancers a road map to use as they traveled within the design. Choreography included complicated steps and rhythmic structures, along with some more basic toe-heels and scuffs. When I thought Teicher had done about as much as he could with this piece, he added dancer Jabu Graybeal to the mix. The highlight of the quartet section was an a cappella segment that showed off the skill, speed, and clarity of sound created by the dancers.
Great Heights was a solo piece, again, featuring Teicher. The audience had the opportunity to even better appreciate his talent and charisma as a performer. Here we saw his humorous side as he repeatedly fell off a stool. Dressed in a shirt, skirt, and heels, Teicher ripped off the skirt and proceeded to tap effortlessly in shorts and bare legs. Teicher dances as if he is truly interpreting the music from within. His head, arms and torso are fully engaged and move fluidly along with his feet.
The final piece in the program, Meet Ella, was a musical tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald. This duet was well-executed by Evita Arce and Mary Sullivan. The choreographed swing sections were the highlight of the dance and paired best with the music. Improvisational sections scattered between didn’t connect as strongly and often broke the flow of the piece. The lighting was dim throughout which, again, didn’t always balance with the up-tempo portions of the movement and music. However, Arce and Sullivan were consistent throughout and worked beautifully together.