Atlanta Fringe Festival: 7 Deadly Sins

I concluded my experience of the Atlanta Fringe Festival this afternoon with Roots Dance Project‘s “7 Deadly Sins.” I enjoyed their show last year and I have to say that it was my favorite show that I saw at the festival this year. Roots is a contemporary ballet company formed for the festival and made up of dancers from a variety of companies in a variety of cities. This program, as the title implies, was made up of pieces that each took as their respective themes one of the seven cardinal sins from Christian theology.

The journey through the deadly sins began with “Hurt (Wrath)”, choreographed by Jennifer Drake. Set to Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song by the same name, this was a duet that seemed to be expressing the pain experienced by a couple in a relationship and their desire to lash out at each other.

Envy was represented by Rachel Truitt’s “Rather Go Blind,” which took its name from the bluesy song by Beyoncé to which it was set. After a woman received (and dropped) a rose from a man, who both left the stage, five women danced an ensemble piece expressing their desire for the man who they couldn’t have.

Next we saw “Wise Man (Pride),” a solo piece choreographed by Gabrielle Gambino for Allan James Paug set to a song by the same name by Frank Ocean. There was no real reason for this to remind me of McKayle’s “Mourner’s Bench” aside from the fact that there was a bench in it, but that’s what I thought about the entire time. In fact, most of the dancing didn’t even take place on the bench and the dance techniques used in the two pieces had little in common, so there was really no reason for me to relate the two pieces. Perhaps the heat was getting to me. Anyway, Paug was dressed in a white shirt and necktie and seemed distraught: regretful, perhaps, because he let his pride get in the way of something? I don’t know. It was decent even though it seemed to have less overtly to do with its sin than some of the others.

Gambino also choreographed the next piece, “Running Through My Veins (Gluttony),” which was a rather athletic duet. I’m guessing that the gluttony expressed in this had to do with drug abuse. It was another decent piece that didn’t quite seem to manage to express anything particularly clearly. However, I think that this piece could fairly successfully be taken as the seed for a larger, more developed piece on the opioid epidemic. Both this and Gambino’s previous piece would work better if there were more context for them: I think that there is more to each than she was able to get out in the span of a 3 minute pop song.

Musician Matt Aurand then played his song “Should I” on acoustic guitar as a pseudo-intermission. It was a decent song with a good rhythm that made me want to dance a little. He had a good voice, too. It was a decent way to give the dancers a brief rest or a change to change costumes without creating a full intermission, which wouldn’t be appropriate for a program that clocked in under an hour.

As Aurand was ending his song, Gambino made her way out onto the stage in a red, sequined dress that was absolutely appropriate for the next piece, “Wicked Desire (Lust).” Choreographed by Lisa Schmidt, the piece was set in a jazz-age club with three men clearly lusting after Gambino, the temptress.

I think that most people could relate to the presentation of the next sin: sloth. “All But Washed Memories,” also by Schmidt, was a delightful comedy performed by three dancers with three baskets of laundry that they clearly did not want to have to fold and put away. Whether by slipping their own load into the others’ baskets or by just putting the clothing directly on their bodies from the baskets, the three did their best to avoid working.

The only piece set to Classical music, Paug choreographed “MINE! (Greed)” to Mozart’s overture to “The Marriage of Figaro.” Like the pieces for wrath and envy, greed was represented by romantic inclination. In it, one man maintained relationships with two women despite the pain that it caused them.

The seven deadly sins will supposedly lead one straight to the devil so the show concluded with “Devil’s Tattoo,” an ensemble piece with the full company choreographed by Melissa Mitchell. Set (I think) to “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the piece little more than a sexy spectacle but, in as such, it was a good, fun close to a decent and very enjoyable program of dance.

While I don’t think that any one piece was particularly amazing, every single one was definitely enjoyable. The choreographers styles weren’t dramatically varied but they each still had their own distinct approaches to expressing their sins. There were some moments of impressive athleticism, but never such that it overshadowed the general expressiveness of the work. Most impressive to me, though, was that they worked so well together even though they don’t all live in the same place and only get to rehearse together as a full ensemble for a week or two before the show. I presume that the smaller pieces feature dancers who get to work together regularly, but there were two ensemble pieces where they did get to show how together they are as a company.

It’s hard to say from a bunch of pieces that clock in under five minutes and that are set to pop music, but I suspect that some, if not all, of the choreographers are probably capable of putting together solid evening-length shows that would be able to hold my attention very well. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of their work in the future and, perhaps, under conditions where they can flesh out their work a little more.

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