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DanceWorks 2015: Week One – Elastic Bands, Phobias and Zebra Pants

by Steve Sucato
April 21, 2015
Cleveland Public Theatre
6415 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 631-2727 x 501
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.
The 15th season of Cleveland Public Theatre's annual DanceWorks series kicked off with a double bill featuring Cleveland modern dance companies, The Movement Project and MorrisonDance. Their performance Saturday, April 4 at CPT's Gordon Square Theatre, began with The Movement Project's new work All together now.

Choreographed by TMP founders Megan Lee Gargano and Rebecca J. Leuszler, and danced to a soundscape by Gargano utilizing such noises as a teakettle whistling and a clock ticking, the work, according to the program notes, was to "investigate an oversized world of "Cat's Cradle," the children's yarn game. The result however turned out to be more like a not particularly engaging or entertaining exercise in the many ways to use elastic bands in a dance work.

Founded in 2009, The Movement Project is still relatively young company and the sister choreography team of Gargano and Leuszler appear to still perhaps be leaning a bit too heavily on movement exercises they learned in college as a means of generating work. All together now's running theme of dancers tethered together by elastic bands was not so much plagued by its unoriginal premise, but rather turning what should have been a 5-minute prop piece into an hour-long succession of rudimentary and repetitive movement phrases that pulverized any hint of novelty out of the work's one note theme.

As dancers, TMP showed some talent, especially dancer Erin Craig who was an absolute joy to watch. With a more focused attention to creating works with depth and craft, TMP has the potential for far better dance productions.

In its 18th season, MorrisonDance is one of Cleveland's old guard. Led by dancer/choreographer Sarah Morrison, the company has been on the cutting edge of integrating dance and technology such as in 1997 being the first to broadcast a live modern dance concert on the Internet. The company is best known however for its repertory of lighthearted dance works five of which including several new works were contained in their program entitled Compulsion to Move: Zugzwang.

The program opened with Morrison's clever "Zugzwang Zebra." Costumed in zebra-striped pants and using a white plastic chair with a hole in its back, Morrison took a simple prop piece and turned it into performance gold. Like a modern day Danny Kaye, Morrison's finely-honed stage presence, humor and musicality proved magical in the solo that had her peering through and fishing her articulating hands and fingers through the chair's hole creating a series of charming dance moments.

After the acrobatic and mildly humorous duet "Voxel" performed by Taliesin Reid Haugh and Liubomyr Shyndak, Morrison's "If I Sit Still Long Enough, I Can Hear the Snow Falling" launched four female dancers into free-flowing, hippie-like dance movement to music by Clint Mansel. The piece blended moments of whimsy and introspection, that like the other works on MorrisonDance's program, didn't take itself too seriously.

The most appealing dance and best danced performance of the evening was turned in by dancers Jenni Hankey and Haugh in Morrison's quirky "PhoboPhobia." Set to commissioned score by Cleveland-based composer Jeremy Allen, the director of FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, the work had Hankey and Haugh donning kid's inflatable bouncy ball outfits giving them the look of giant blue raspberries with legs. To Allen's music laced with Clyde Symon reciting a list of phobias and positive affirmations sounding a bit like German existentialist character Hans Beinholtz on TV's The Colbert Report, the dances moved through delightful balletic partnering lifts and body positions that had the dancer's ball costumes swallowing them up, merging them together and for Hankey, acting like a tutu.

The program closed with Morrison's breezy group dance piece "Existential Funk" performed to jazzy reggae music by Harlem Underground Band and Bobbi Humphrey.
MorrisonDance performs 'Existential Funk.'

MorrisonDance performs "Existential Funk."

Photo © & courtesy of Bob Perkoski


Sarah Morrison and Hope Schultz perform in 'If I Sit Still Enough I can Hear the Snow Falling.'

Sarah Morrison and Hope Schultz perform in "If I Sit Still Enough I can Hear the Snow Falling."

Photo © & courtesy of Bob Perkoski


Sarah Morrison in 'Zugzwang Zebra.'

Sarah Morrison in "Zugzwang Zebra."

Photo © & courtesy of Rick Klein


The Movement Project in 'All together now…' Photo by Jonny Riese.

The Movement Project in "All together now…" Photo by Jonny Riese.

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