Atlanta Dance Collective: Raw

I’ve not been to as much concert dance this season as in the past: that along with chamber music has kind of fallen to the wayside as I’ve attended more dramatic theater or otherwise have been too busy or tired to make it to shows. As such, I was pretty happy when I noticed that Atlanta Dance Collective’s Raw was being staged on a random Friday that I had free and also was being staged conveniently close to where I lived at the Atlanta Dance Academy (TADA). It was a nice evening of dance featuring four pieces by five choreographers.

TADA has a comfortable little back box for intimate performances. There’s a support pillar a little to the right of downstage center, but it’s not that hard to find a position that can see around it. Short people will definitely want to favor the front two rows here as it’s not a raised stage and, while there are risers for the seating, the terraces are not terribly deep and there are two rows to a terrace so some might find it hard to see anything below the waist of the performers. That said, I didn’t find it hard to snag a decent seat for myself arriving a little less than 30 min before showtime.

Lighting and costuming were pretty simple for all four pieces and not really worth mentioning beyond saying that neither were anything less than decent. Probably the only thing that really stuck in my mind about either was that some of the dancers kept their piercings on during the performance. Having been a teenager in the 90’s and knowing enough people with torn earlobes, cartilage, and nostrils, that made me cringe a bit when I first noticed it. Athletes and performing artists usually take such things out as much for safety as for aesthetic considerations. Fortunately there were no accidents and, hopefully, there never will be.

The first piece on the program was Canyon choreographed by Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen. This was the only one of the four with any kind of program notes:

Driven by the idea that America is a melting pot of unique human experience, Canyon is a kaleidoscopic reflection on how people handle uncertainty, labeling, and fear of otherness.

I thought that the piece did a good job of expressing these sentiments. It seemed to go through explorations of group dynamics, alienation, approved pairings, and the notions of borders. Despite making use of a line drawn on the stage, this latter concept may have been intended in a more figurative sense than literal, but it worked just as well expressing the notion of being from the wrong side of the imaginary line as it did expressing the notion of people reacting to other less physical socially defined limitations. Overall, it was an engaging work and enjoyable to watch.

Next was Gianna Mercandetti’s la même. Although I enjoyed it, I never got a sense of sameness from the performance and am not entirely sure what was meant by the title. Looking at my notes now, I’m realizing that nothing really stuck with me and I even have a note that I remember scribbling down after intermission that suggests that it was already slipping away from me. The only images that I have in my head is one from the beginning of people sort of building kinetic energy like popcorn slowly starting to pop and then another in which the dancers were lying on their backs moving their hands in a chopping fashion that I thought looked kind of like they were trying to sort through something to find something, which may be nothing remotely related to what was intended or the context. There was also a scene in which one dancer was going through a series of not-quite frantic movements as the rest of the dancers surrounded them calling out warmer/colder tips that didn’t seem to really correspond to any of the movements and often was either hard to understand or were mixed signals. What I do remember about the piece, though, was enjoying it, which may not be obvious from what I just wrote. I really do recall finding most of the choreography interesting even if it didn’t have an impact on me.

After intermission we saw then., a work for one dancer choreographed and performed by Sarah Stokes, who enjoys putting punctuation in the titles of her work to mess with people who want to write about it. This piece gave me a sense of rumination, a pensive reconsideration of some past event or period of time. Some parts of it looked familiar to me and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve seen enough of Stokes’ work that her style is familiar but haven’t seen it frequently enough to fully recognize it or if perhaps I’ve seen all or part of the entire work before in another venue or as part of another work. Regardless, it was easy to be drawn in by Stokes’ performance because she was so engaged with the core of the piece. That said, and even though Stokes’ stage presence was strong enough, I really felt like this would have worked better as a duet. I kept seeing a sort of movement response or movement to which Stokes was responding in my head and it left me feeling that the work was only one side of a conversation, even if that conversation was happening entirely within the head of just one person.

The program concluded with a return to capitalized titles with Lydia Patselas’ Emulate. As much as I appreciate Patselas adhering to standardized style guides for titles, I have to admit that I didn’t really like this one. It just never managed to grab my eyes or hold my attention. Though it didn’t occur to me at the time, thinking back on it for some reason makes me recall my response to Mark Morris’ work in that I felt that if I liked the music and intention a little more then I’d have enjoyed the piece. In other words, I think that my failure to engage with it is less a reaction to the quality of the work and more because the piece at its root came from a place that didn’t appeal my particular tastes.

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