Thread: Women’s Voices Through Dance

Last night I caught Thread: Women’s Voices Through Dance, a collaboration between artists in the Atlanta and Chattanooga areas staged at Emory’s Performing Arts Studio. I honestly didn’t know much about what to expect, but it promised reconstructions and there really aren’t many people doing classic modern dance pieces in the metro area, so I bought a ticket. It turned out that there was only one reconstruction, but I didn’t feel disappointed because the show was still enjoyable.

There were six pieces on the program. Each one seemed to be made up of people who work together fairly often rather than a mix of dancers from different institutions and cities, which makes perfect sense given how difficult it would be to rehearse across a two-plus hour commute. All of the dancers performed well and worked well together.

The first piece on the program was re-pass by Amanda Byars. This featured a cappella singing by dancer Sharon C. Carelock. The lyrics came from a variety of popular music sources but were delivered in a much more soulful manner than the original recordings. The remaining three dancers provided some degree of percussion in their steps at times, particularly in the beginning of the piece. Overall it was a sweet piece and a nice way to start off the program.

Up next was the first of two comedic pieces by Amanda Exley Lower that involved fashion. Ladies who wear hats was a duet in which each dancer entered wearing long coats over black dresses with vertical stripes (thin gold on one and thick patterned stripes on the other). Pinned to their heads were two-piece tulle fascinators in white and black. Their costumes implied a level of aged pompousness and their behavior towards each other reinforced the image. Each removed their coat and began a back-and-forth dance in which they seemed to be trying to either respond to each other or keep up with each other as they tried to make use of bodies that were neglected in age. I have no idea what’s up with my tone and the detail in this writeup, but I assure you that it was a fairly silly piece and reasonably fun.

The only reconstruction on the program was Lester Horton’s The Beloved, which was reconstructed from the labanotation by Bridget Roosa, who also performed. The only piece by a man on the program, The Beloved is a duet that deals with the violent murder of an adulteress by her bible-wielding husband. It was a pretty amazing piece and very well performed. It very effectively expressed a dramatic tension between the two dancers as well as their despair and the violence that was borne of it.

After an intermission we saw So Much More, a duet performed and choreographed by Amanda Byars and Laurel Moore Zahrobsky. It began and ended with Byars and Moor Zahrobsky reciting excerpts from Rupi Kaur’s “Apology,” with the dancers performing choreography rich with feeling between. The subject was expressed more in the recitation than in the movement, but it was still a good and sincere piece.

Exley Lower followed this with her second in her series on fashion, Rubbish Reborn, a comedy that seemed to be about the absurdity and waste of materialism. Performed as a solo by the choreographer, she danced in the middle of the floor while being bombarded by a week’s worth of recycling thrown by techs from either side of the stage. The techs then began to help outfit her with random articles of clothing, such as an extra dress, a tutu, a hat, and several bags of various kinds: making her look absurdly overwhelmed by junk while she strutted about as though it was the greatest thing of all. It was a lot of silly fun.

The evening concluded with Moore Zahrobsky’s I see you, performed by five dancers. It began with a sense of alienation. One of the dancers would desperately try to get attention, acknowledgement, and affection from the rest. She would lie still on the ground as the others would walk past and then reach out and touch one, her interaction causing the rest to just freeze. When they would move she would lie down and when she’d try again to interact with them, they’d freeze and not respond to her. From there it developed into a series of interactions that culminated in a series of support/trust movements, after which the dancers began to regard each other affectionately, touching each other, and smiling where in the beginning they all seemed stony faced and isolated. It was touching and sweet and a good conclusion to a pretty decent show.

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