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Expressing the Intelligent Body

DROP Dance presents seven works by seven choreographers

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Local dancers and choreographers met with movement artists from both coasts at the Fulton Street Theater, where DROP Dance Collective performed May 3, 4 and 5. The diversity of styles resulted in a consistently enjoyable program that explored the capacity of the human body to impress, express and inspire.

Visiting dancer-choreographer Tahni Holt opened the show by wheeling an office desk onstage. Holt, who also directs the Portland-based dance company Monster Squad, developed her solo "25 Dances: A lecture performance created and performed by Tahni Holt" while on retreat under the auspices of the Caldera Arts Residency program. Holt explained her on-going exploration of body memory--what she calls the "intellect of the body."

Following a brief (and quirky) lecture, Holt demonstrated the movement idiom that she has created. These 25 dances encompass the range of human emotion while remaining unique to Holt's personality. For example, "A general feeling of crookedness dance" entailed the dancer curving her outstretched body to one side and tiptoeing forward; in "An orphan girl dance," she repeated the motion of bending over sobbing.

"Unlicensed Driver," one of two works by Vermont-based artist and teacher Peggy Florin, continued the program. This solo piece was characterized by a combination of graceful and awkward motions; Florin moved like a dream-bound marionette. Florin also choreographed "Appointment at 4," which she performed with local collaborator Harriet Jastremsky. This quietly comical duet included movements evocative of mundane activities such as chopping vegetables. The dancers repeatedly bent to touch the tops of their heads together and slowly twirl around--a whimsical motion that reminded me how it feels to be 7 years old.

Gracie Meier and Jenna Wegner, both Idaho natives finishing their freshman year as dancers at the Boston Conservatory, co-choreographed "Go, Gone," which started in silence, accompanied only by the beautiful sound of the dancers' feet hitting the floor. This acrobatic pas de deux alternately filled the space around them with abstract aggressive action and focused on small hand and foot movements--such as the gesture of covering first the mouth, then the ear with the right hand.

"You Can('t) Always Stop," choreographed by Leah Stephens Clark (award-winning local artist and founder of Balance Dance Company) was skillfully interpreted by Tanja Lunt, Helene Peterson and Gina Sinisi (who, as well as being a dancer, is also a freelance writer for Boise Weekly). A lyrical, engaging piece that expressed longing and conflict, this dance included martial kicks, claps and running catches.

Clark also danced a solo piece choreographed by Helene Peterson, teacher-choreographer with Balance Dance Company. "Pins and Needles" was the piece on the program that most fully realized the capacity of dance to explore the depths of human emotion. From the anxious, twisting-hand movements that opened the piece to the heart-wrenching sequence of falls at the work's climax, Clark showed absolute commitment to the intention and direction of Peterson's piece. Watching the dancer arch her body up and back, fall to the right, then get up to do it again (and again and again) brought me to tears. This was dance that truly made visible the interior life of a human being in all her complexity and suffering.

Lauren Edson, an alumna of the Ballet Idaho Academy of Dance and the Juilliard School, ended the program on a lighter note, with a virtuosic piece that showcased beautiful shapes and movements in space. Although Edson's classical training informs her choreography, she is not limited to the formal idiom of ballet; her piece was both funny and thought-provoking.

Unfortunately, throughout the program, the music was too loud. (When I tired of holding my ears, I had to dig through my purse to find earplugs, thereby missing a good portion of one of the dances.) In addition, the clicks and pops of the sound system between songs were distracting. The lighting, on the other hand, worked effectively to enhance both the movements of the dancers and the mood of each piece. The white screen behind the stage, while nice as a backdrop to set off the shapes made by the dancers' bodies, also seemed to beg for projections.

After seeing such a diverse and collaborative program, I am excited to see the collaboration extend to include other artists--not only dancers and choreographers, but also local musicians and visual artists. Tahni Holt's list of collaborators--which includes not only musicians and costume designers, but also video and performance artists, and most recently, an architect--was inspiring. Kudos to DROP Dance Collective for bringing together a wide range of talented performers.

On June 20, DROP Dance will perform "Balance of a Bag," a benefit for the Balance Dance Company. For more information, call 208-331-9224 or e-mail contact balance@spro.net.

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