After four years and four iterations of Tobacco Road Dance Productions' unique eight-month mentorship program, which brings together emerging choreographers and established dance makers, founders Stephanie Woodbeck and William Commander's last showcase before handing over the reins was a good moment to take stock. It displayed their program's strengths in generating successful new works—and works that raised questions about that success as well.
The oral history of 1970s Southern quilters that composer Caroline Shaw incorporated into her piece Really Craft When You framed Kristin Clotfelter's pensive, poignant solo, Verses. At first, she stood still, holding three flattened cardboard boxes. Then she looked and reached around and above her with simple gestures, echoing Shaw's melancholic, homespun melody for clarinet, piano, and cello. As the women talked of quilts, Clotfelter seemed intent on collecting elements from the space around her, impressing them upon her body before attempting to place them in her boxes. When those efforts proved problematic, she tried to place herself in the boxes instead. The work ultimately asked how much of our history and ourselves can we truly preserve.
Alyssa Noble and Allie Pfeffer's risible duet And We're Back took a page from Monica Bill Barnes's recent work, exposing the labor behind a polished dance. When Pfeffer quizzed her partner on one move, Noble answered, "Do four of the best pirouettes you've ever done ... then chase your tail until you feel you're gonna puke." And Caitlyn Swett's Spine continued her recent interrogations into relationships both on stage and off as her character first rejected a dyad with Blakeney Bullock before an enigmatic rapprochement at the end.
But Johanna Berliner's Just Heckin' Do It never transcended a dance-recital display of cuteness and whimsy, and we wondered where it had started eight months earlier—and why it hadn't developed further than this.