by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | photo credit: Mike Hurwitz
A small gem in the Fringe line-up this past weekend was the work of choreographers Evalina “Wally” Carbonell and Melissa Rector. Both, known for their work with notable Philadelphia dance companies, collaborated on Honey. They assembled their fellow dancers from KYL/D and Koresh Dance Company to create an imposing ensemble of technicians. The program was inspired by the poem, “The Honey Tree,” by Mary Oliver, and gathered a young, boisterous audience for the evening performance on September 14, 2019.
CHI Movement Center was an ideal venue for the program. The white box theater allowed enough room for the full company to perform comfortably, without being overwhelming in the solos and duets. It also gave the opportunity to use minimal lighting and cast warm shadows that made for an effective backdrop in several pieces. The opening, Golden, was one such example. Carbonell and Rector performed together in this dance and introduced the company. The movements incorporated audible breathes and slaps to the floor, legs, and shoulders as the artists seemed to consume all that the honey tree seemed to offer. Rector’s intensity was captivating and I was sorry she was not on stage again until the closing piece.
Six other works followed Golden with one piece seamlessly transitioning into the other. The stage was never empty as dancers from the next work entered at the end of the previous. This gave the hour-long program an effortless flow that wasn’t broken up with black-outs or unnecessary pauses.
One of the lengthiest pieces was Carbonell’s, In the honey tree, we ate chunks of pure light. A stunning tableau started the piece with dancers Brian Cordova, Weiwei Ma, Sophie Malin, Wangbo Zhu, and Carbonell. They broke into expansive arm movements and full use of the space that included plenty of floor work. This was the only time I felt the venue did not work in favor. The seating had minimal, if not any, rise between rows making it difficult to see what was happening when the dancers worked in low levels. This was especially disappointing in the duet between Cordova and Zhu, who were executing intricate floor work. A highlight of the dance was the all-female trio work. Carbonell featured the power and control of the three by incorporating plenty of leg extensions and promenades. There were also counter-moments of playfulness, with feminine qualities, that showcased the litheness in their hips and torsos.
The program had a powerful closing with Rector’s in the heaven of appetite. This was one of the rare times that the ensemble danced in full unison and it had a commanding effect. It also showed how wisely Rector and Carbonell chose their cast. The dancers had the familiarity and ease that comes from working closely together. They were well-rehearsed and in complete command of their space. The result was a poignant choreographic work, performed by artists who have honed and mastered their craft.