It's been good seeing apples, squash and pumpkins brightening up the local farmers markets of late. But the harvest I've really been waiting for is just getting underway this week, as the area's major academic and independent dance groups begin to bring forth their season's bounty.
The dance programs at N.C.S.U. and Meredith College start us off with fall concerts this weekend, while the Even Exchange Dance Company holds an "open house" preview of work in progress with Rainbow Dance Company. Next weekend, Duke Dance and Peace College step forward. In the midst, Choreo Collective puts in appearances at Durham's Art Walk and Culture Crawl, before their second annual midnight mixed-media gig, Choreo Shorts: Film, Dance and Music at Chapel Hill's Carolina Theater.
Our first look at the first fruits of the season shows promise. Among the works we saw ahead of time at Meredith Dance Theater, Anna Smith's 250-Thread Count opens like a foreign film, as the choreographer juxtaposes a projected series of grainy Italian photographs from 40 to 50 years ago next to a sleeping couple. Inventive technical effects permit these and other images to intrigue us, as we try to connect the couples and quartets in the photos with those we see on stage. Marissa Mamo's For the Time Being pays solo homage to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Inspired by a year-long examination of medieval culture on the Meredith College campus, director Carol Kyles Finley gets at the sacredness of secular work in Hearth. As a group of women introduce themselves in simple, stark prose, their movements suggest the domestic work each had to do to keep their families fed, warm, clothed in times more raw than these. Women's work, of course--without which life and civilization could not have continued. Medieval a capella music from the Estonian group Rondellus further frames the lives of these domestic saints.
At N.C. State's Student and Alumni Concert, Megan Marvel's Little Cabbage may be a Chinese term of endearment, but its dwindling gestures and air of evaporated hope tell a different story. And we want to see more of Lauren Scott's potent dancing, which actually proves a match for Maria Callas during most of Hover, a metaphoric meditation on resilience, vulnerability and flight. Lindsey Greene, meanwhile, probes the folk image of tears in a teaspoon in 21st Century Lullabies, after an imaginative trio sculpts space to Satie in Movement Studies.
Alumna Mair Culbreth returns from San Francisco with two works. Her solo, Jarred Heart, is set to text by Harriet Beecher Stowe and music by Ani DiFranco. Culbreth and Michelle Winchell later enact Motion-Lab's The Swooning Room, an urban work based on an alchemical treatise, the Rule of Correspondence, and Rumi's maxim, "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." Carol Finley's re-edited videodance A Polka Dream opens the concert.
Glenda Mackie is on the phone, counting off what she calls "beads"--individual projects, individual ways of looking at flight that Even Exchange Dance Theater has explored thus far in a year-long investigation of travel by air. The group considered risk taking, invention, and a quality Buddhist nuns call "groundlessness." After a summer's morning improv at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Jennifer Huggins and Allison Waddell have developed a duet called "Crash and Learn" which they're touring with the North Carolina Dance Festival. The group is preparing for further work with regional vets at the Raleigh Veteran's Center.
But this weekend, Even Exchange celebrates a collaboration they began this summer with Rainbow Dance Company, a school-age modern dance company affiliated with Arts Together,thea Raleigh community arts school on St. Mary's Street. "Not only do a lot of us work with Rainbow, a lot of us came from that company," Mackie observes. "In some ways, it was the seed for Even Exchange. So the idea of inter-generational flight was interesting to us."
The piece, a section from an evening-length work slated for Apr. 24-25 at BTI Center, focuses on what Mackie calls the power of two: "It took two brothers to fly. It's the sense that no one person can do it alone, that we need a person to reflect on--which fits with our company's own identity as a collaborative."
A company "open house" includes an informal showing of the work with Rainbow Dance, Sun., Nov. 16, from 2-4 pm.
And before closing, we must mention the highlights from last weekend's Raleigh Dance Theatre concert. Finely etched tableaux and animated, character-driven solos distinguished M'Liss Dorrance's Little Women, a brief suite of characters sketches from the Louisa May Alcott novel, to music by Arthur Foote. Later, seven dancers appeared to give a group interpretation of a difference engine--one of the earliest types of computers--in the intricate, interconnected choreography of Tyler Walters' String Theory. As a result, we now know what ballet dancing--in base 2--looks like. Though Walter's digital switching, writ large, challenged the school-age troupe, enough of the world came across to make us want to see more.
NOTABLE DANCE OPENINGS:
Ballet Gran Folklorico de Mexico, Nov. 13, Carolina Theatre; High School Dance Day, Nov. 14, Meredith College; Hello Neighbor! Interplay and Choreo Collective, Nov. 15, Wellness Partners in the Arts,Durham Art Walk; November Dances, Duke Dance, Reynolds Theater, Nov. 21-22; Choreo Shorts: Film, Dance & Music, Choreo Collective, Carolina Theater, Chapel Hill, Nov. 22; Peace College Student Showings, Leggett Theater, Nov. 20