On Thursday night, Spectrum Dance Theater showed us again how contemporary dance, especially when paired with great live music, can be one of the most exciting of art forms.
“Rambunctious: a Festival of American Composers and Dance,” a collaboration with the chamber music group, Simple Measures, has offered two ambitious weekends of new dance in two different venues (Fremont Abbey Arts Center and, this weekend, at Washington Hall).
The series of new works by choreographer Donald Byrd struck a balance between playful formality and passionate conviction that brought the audience to its feet.
“Fanfare!” set to a scherzo by Charles Ives was a cheerful romp with the 10 company dancers in brilliantly lit colors (costumes by Doris Black and lighting by Rico Chiarelli) in fast backward runs, cocky elbow-out skips and quick flight partnerings.
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In “Kol Nidre” set to music by John Zorn, the long-lined Cara May Marcus and lithe Jade Solomon Curtis in flowing white tunics suggested a cold neoclassicism formality lit up by passion. A figure in the background draped in black gradually took focus like some dark memory, perhaps the atonement of the title.
“I from myself am banished” to music by Vincent Persichetti had powerful Alex Crozier repeatedly felled by some unknown grief as the compelling Kate Monthy, abetted by William Burden and Davione Gordon, created waves of movement around and over him, as if trying to save him or further his destruction.
“Quintet for Trumpet and Strings” by Don Krishnaswami, offered a world premiere of music, unaccompanied by dance. The jazzy, rolling, hypnotic piece was played with clarity and feeling by violinists Michael Jinsoo Lim and Liza Zurlinden, Laura Renz on viola, cellist Rajan Krishnaswami (brother to the composer and director of Simple Measures chamber group), and Brian Chin on trumpet.
“Septet,” the final piece of the evening and one of the most complex, featured a pair of partners and a triad.
Dense choreography with fascinating and surprising variations in shape, tempo, placement and relationships are what we have come to expect from a choreographer of Byrd’s caliber, but what takes his works beyond this into Spectrum’s theatrical, aggressive, risk-taking style, is the focused energy he elicits from his dancers.
Here they completely nix any idea that dance might be cool, tranquil or held in. As if possessed, these performers seem to bust right through the formalities of dance itself.
Mary Murfin Bayley is a writer and actor living in Seattle. firstname.lastname@example.org