Days before the Sept. 28 performance by Lauren Edson + Dancers at the Egyptian Theatre, fewer than half of the tickets had been sold. Boise band Edmond Dantes, scheduled to play an opening set, didn’t have a lead guitarist.
That might be news for the approximately 500 people who showed up to see dancer/choreographer Edson and her troupe kick off a national tour that will ultimately take it to Dance Gallery Festival in New York. For the audience, LED’s performance was a thrilling, emotional trek over three dances that ranged from a visceral breakdown of person-on-person violence to an examination of the interior forces that confine and liberate one woman.
With a substitute guitarist on hand, Edmond Dantes prepped LED’s home crowd with an invigorating and soulful set, playing songs that touched on heartbreak and mature themes with up-tempo, almost Motown-esque bravado. One audience member worried that lead singer Andrew Stensaas’ vocals were drowned by the other instruments; another thought the music was better fit for venue with room for the audience to dance. Quibbles aside, the act was the perfect aperitif for LED’s first choreography of the night.
“Two Against One,” the evening’s first dance, capitalized on the vogue of modern dance interpreting romance in the face of adversity. Lead male Yurek Hansen (formerly with Idaho Dance Theatre) got the worst of it, alternately wooing lead female Sayoko Knode and taking savage beatings from supporting male dancers Jake Casey and Jem Wierenga.
If “Two Against One” was a dance about damage to and regeneration of the body, “I Hit the Ground,” which premiered earlier this year, drove into emotional territory, giving equal voice to the gendered contortions of the soul during an argument or break-up. Dressed like Leeloo in The Fifth Element, lead female Edson was a tangle of muscular androgyny, at turns in love and anguish in a spat with thoroughly masculine lead male Jason Hartley.
Traveling ever-deeper into the psyche was the premiere of “Shatter on the Rocks or Cover Your Ears,” an artfully envisioned take on the warring powers of conformity, imagination and innocence in lead female Nell Rollins’ mind. Rollins plays a woman adrift on a sea of her own self-doubts, set upon by the male sycophants of a quasi-fascist with gleaming eyes and bondage leather played by Edson. The original score by Stensaas—Edson’s husband and Edmond Dantes’ vocalist—was as full-bodied as Edson’s choreography, with the sounds of the ocean; moody, a-melodic atmospherics; and guffaw-inducing samples of goofy, old-timey music.
Though Edson has danced professionally for years, what she and her dancers delivered on Sept. 28 is an indication of her unique talent and successes yet to come.