Saturday, July 17, 2010

GroundWorks DanceTheater @ Cain Park (Alma Theater)

The Program: Valence, Unpublished Dialogues, Saying Yes
The Dancers: Amy Miller, Felise Bagley, Sarah Berrett, Damien Highfield, Tod VanSlambrouck

One of the many* wonderful things about living in Cleveland Heights is the community's support for the arts, possibly the most visible expression of that being Cain Park -- a 2 minute walk literally down the street from my house.

At some point late yesterday it came to my attention that GroundWorks DanceTheater was performing at Cain Park this weekend, and having been impressed by the results of the collaboration between GroundWorks, The Cleveland Play House, and The Cleveland Orchestra for A Soldier's Tale during this year's Fusion Fest I figured it seemed like a good way to spend a Saturday Evening.

So to get the less than great out of the way first: I'm not sure if it was the venue's acoustics or the sound system or simply the source material but the music struck me as over compressed or almost completely devoid of dynamic range, and didn't really contribute to the performance.

Being essentially an outdoor theater with a roof, the 90-degree outside heat translated to a sweltering audience... The dancers didn't seem to be inhibited by the heat and presented a show that only got better as the evening progressed.

Opening the evening was Valance: A piece that struck me as having a very post-industrial and dark feel, and perhaps in part due to my not reading the program notes until the conclusion of the piece didn't particularly move me, though I was intrigued by the beginning, starting with the dancers in an accelerating circle until individuals were flung by the momentum.

Following a brief pause was Unpublished Dialogues, relating to the life and death of Virginia Woolf. I was particularly intrigued by what seemed best described as a danced play, making more extensive use of props, setting, and even a relatively clear story arc than any dance I can recall seeing (aside from the aforementioned collaboration) with some whimsical moments bridging the somber conclusion (she did, after all, commit suicide) with the dance rendering spoken dialogue or narration unnecessary.

The lone piece following intermission and a world premiere, Saying Yes, was a just plain enjoyable dance with perpetual movement, pleasant music, and as far as I can tell, there being no program notes accompanying this piece, no unifying underlying story to interpret. I'm not entirely clear if the dance was intended to evoke symbolism embodied by the titles of the music: Exposed Zipper, Trans Fatty Acid's Rain, Evil Yellow Penguin, Mara's Lullaby, Evil Yellow Penguin, Mechanically Separated Chicken Parts, and Pickled Trousers; Since I wasn't watching or listening with that in mind I can't comment on that aspect.

GroundWorks has one more performance at Cain Park, 2:00 Sunday, and later this year joins with Opera Cleveland in a collaboration for Bizet's The Pearl Fishers

*- Others include the huge variety of local businesses, the immense walkability--including walkability to University Circle, and the diversity of just about everything: People, architecture, ...

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