Atlanta Dance Collective: Time + Itinerant

Atlanta Dance Collective’s Time + Itinerant at Synchronicity Theater included four dance pieces by four choreographers in four distinct styles with 3 1/3 distinct ensembles of performers. The live performances were followed by a brief screening of dance for film, the Opine Dance Film Festival, that offered an additional 11 pieces for any audience members who paid the extra $3 on top of the $12 ticket for the main dance concert to stick around and watch it. Overall, the evening not only offered great bang for the buck but also some pretty decent dance and film.

The dance concert opened with [deym], choreographed by Britt Whitmoyer Fishel. Dealing with the social pressures on women to adhere to society’s standards of grooming and beauty, the piece opened with the four women dancers dressing to the sound of spoken-word excerpts from a remarkably sexist and patronizing mid-20th century instructional film called Body Care and Grooming. Throughout the piece, the choreography did a good job of showing the stress that the dancer’s faced as they did what they could to keep up with the standards set for them. At one point there were demonstrations of grooming with grotesque results, such as looking crazy putting each other’s hair up in curlers or one dancer painting lipstick on her lips over and over again until finally extending the area to be painted across a clownish portion of her face. I felt that another portion during which the women seemed to be knocked — or even thrown — down repeatedly but kept getting back up as though nothing had happened was an effective representation of the expectations that women will take all manner of personal criticism in stride. The piece concluded with the dancers moving frantically, as though trying to keep up with expectations. Each one gradually left the stage until there was one woman left, frantically moving even after the music ended, a potent symbol of the never-ending struggle towards ‘beauty.’

The second piece on the program was a duet choreographed by Caitlin Dutton called Letters. A charming and generally pretty piece, one man and one woman dancer seemed to be expressing recollections of a long-term relationship. The dancers began by performing the same choreography in tandem in a manner that I found provided an interesting contrast that allowed me to explore my own biases in interpreting the same movements done by a women and by a man. Beyond that, there isn’t terribly much in the choreography that stuck with me aside from the fact that I found it enjoyable and well performed. The only real issue that I have with the piece was that the dancers didn’t check each other’s costumes and the man came out having missed a belt loop. This wasn’t a huge deal but that it somewhat distractingly broke up the line around his middle and was noticeable to both me and at least one other person.

The third piece on the program was the flashiest: Bits and Chunks by Gabriella Dorado (who, rudely, seemed to leave the auditorium once her own piece was over) featured ‘mysteriously’ dark and colorful lighting and some rather interesting masks worn by the dancers, the details of which were a bit too fine to be seen well from a stage. The mise en scene did provide an interesting atmosphere, but overall I feel that it detracted from the choreography. There were some really interesting things going on in the movement but I found that the setting caused me to expect something more meaningful or eye-catching. I feel like this was an example of a choreographer not having enough faith in her own choreography — or, perhaps, even dance as an art form — and feeling the need to cover for it with gimmickry. It’s a shame, because I think that it might have been enjoyable, otherwise.

After an intermission, an ensemble containing three of the same dancers as [deym] and a few other faces performed -interval- by Sarah Stokes, who was the third dancer in [deym]. (Clearly this is a crowd that knows the joys to be had in playing with punctuation.) The piece played with time, starting with the sound of a ticking clock. Dancers entered and exited, performing the same few, very mechanical bits of choreography. It then built into something a little more complex, a little faster, and more engaging. The first portion of it had an aesthetic that repeatedly put me in mind of Bill T. Jones’ Blauvelt Mountain, which plays with time (and time travel) a lot, which left me wondering if it was an inspiration for the choreographer, although Jones’ piece was much more thoughtful and, if not really meaningful, clever. Stokes’ piece kind of devolved as it progressed, though, until it seemed to be more of a music video for a piece of electronica than a concert dance piece. Another member of the audience said that he felt like he was tricked into watching a workout video. Overall, though, I rather liked it: the choreographer had some very interesting ideas and created an interesting and cohesive aesthetic. I don’t think, however, that she managed to bring much meaning to the piece with which to engage the audience. Although the specifics of this piece probably won’t stick with me, I’d be very interested to see what this choreographer comes up with as her career progresses; I think that there is a good chance she’ll be doing some very interesting work in five years or so if she sticks with it (particularly if she develops better taste in music).

I really want to go to bed, so I’m not going to talk about the film festival except to say that, of the 11 pieces shown, there was one really beautiful film, a couple of really good works, a couple that were pretty interesting, and only one or two that I thought I found to be less-than. I took some notes and may write about it tomorrow, but I doubt that I’ll get around to it. Overall, the entire evening was well put together and had a lot that was worth seeing. Atlanta Dance Collective, who didn’t credit any specific people for tech/production, managed to do a solid, professional job of bringing everything to the stage and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

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