Full Radius Dance: Breakaway

After an awful day at work, I walked down to 7 Stages where I bought a ticket to Breakaway by Full Radius Dance and then drank a sizable cup of not very good wine before being seated for the show. I must say that it’s a good thing that I live within walking distance of the theater because I don’t think that I had enough to eat for supper and the wine hit me pretty hard. All of that is to say that, although I enjoyed the dance concert, the first half of it is already a bit of a blur to me.

I’ve seen Full Radius several times over the years but only at festivals and the like. These have generally been short pieces in public places without much in the way of costuming, lighting, or the like to compliment it. I’ve developed a positive opinion of them through all of that — the blending of able-bodied dancers with dancers in wheel-chairs is done remarkably well, working with what is more like an expanded dance vernacular rather than one that focuses on the novelty of the modes of movement and never feeling limited or like it is falling back on a gimmick. However, what I’ve seen in the past has never been enough to make a particularly strong effort to make it out to one of their fully-staged shows. I’ve generally made note of them but, if anything else came up, I generally gave them a pass. After tonight, though, I might be more hesitant to do so.

There were three works on the program along with a documentary of a rehearsal where some of the evening’s works were being developed. The documentary was shot from about 1′ off the ground and across a plane parallel to the floor and provided very little insight into the work or the artists. I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

The dancing was much better, though. As I mentioned, the first half of the program is a bit murky in my mind, but I did find myself engrossed in A Bee in Ink and Static Friction, choreographed by Douglas Scott, et al, and Shawn Evangelista, respectively. Both pieces suffered from a very dark lighting design that was also a little too dramatic. The dancing, though, was fairly rich and expressive. I have to admit, though, that I gave into the demands of the rather unpleasant-tasting wine and settled back and took them purely as abstract works, so I haven’t terribly much to say about what they were expressing. Although I can’t recall what exactly about the piece made me think so, I found myself hoping that I’d one day get to see Evangelista’s piece done with better lighting.

The lighting wasn’t much better in Tenement, the piece that followed the intermission: it wasn’t as dark as the first two pieces but, even so, when the lights came up to levels you’d normally see in a stage show they felt almost painfully bright because I’d been in the dark for so long. This didn’t detract as much from this piece as it did from the other two, though.

Tenement explores life in tenements, particularly seeming to focus on the early 20th century. It began by playing on the notion of the cramped, impersonal quarters, looked at the relationships of the people who live there, how a person leaving can feel drawn back to it, and, of course, the humanity of the tenants, themselves. Each of the five dancers had a character from a different culture and repeatedly spoke all or part of a line introducing themselves in Russian, Italian, Irish, Czech, or Mandarin(?). This could have just as well have been any number of other languages (e.g. Yiddish, Arabic, Patois, Puerto Rican Spanish, &c) but I suspect that these were the ones for which they could find translators and that the dancers felt that they could pronounce. It more or less worked: the accents weren’t that great — what I thought was Mandarin was spoken in something that sounded more like a Japanese accent to me — but they spoke steadily and confidently. It’s not uncommon for a choreographer to get to work with dancers who can also deliver lines well, but it’s far more common to find that working spoken language into a dance piece doesn’t add much to it at the best of times and weakens it dramatically at the worst. I’d say that it was just shy of being neutral in this case. The piece itself, though, was fairly enjoyable and straightforward.

Overall the choreography for the entire show was innovative and engrossing. Both choreographers were able to take advantage of the strengths and character of the individual dancers to create something that really let the dancers each bring something unique and special to the piece. And the dancers themselves were really on-mark with their performance. I think that it’s really worth the ticket price and time to check them out and I’ll probably make more of an effort to see their stage work in the future.

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