Last Friday, Sugar Space Arts Warehouse presented Dance Heginbotham, the company of eponymous New York-based choreographer and former Mark Morris dancer John Heginbotham. While I believe the company typically has more dancing members, Heginbotham brought just two along for the Salt Lake show: Lindsey Jones and Weaver Rhodes, both graduates from SUNY Purchase. Additionally, musician Nathan Koci traveled with the troupe, accompanying the evening alternately on the piano and the accordion. All the evening’s costumes were created by Maile Okamura (who also used to dance for Morris).
The evening included six works: five by Heginbotham, one by Okamura. While it seemed like a lot from the outset, together they rounded out a well-paced, well-varied hour-long program. The several dances that included live accompaniment by Koci often began with an overture, giving the effect of musical interludes between divertissements. Alongside Heginbotham’s quirky, humor-infused dances, the live music transported the audience to a variety show era.
As the evening progressed, Heginbotham’s choreographic knacks became clear: the crafting of technical rigor, punctuating that rigor with exploration of and indulgence in physical humor, as well as creating successful humor through facial expression. Heginbotham’s choreographic structures and movement choices are strong; so were the performative ones made by himself, Jones, and Weaver throughout the evening.
I mentioned Heginbotham’s Morris lineage previously, but want to clarify that I did so not because dancing for Mark Morris validates him as a choreographer but because Heginbotham’s dance lineage can serve as a point of reference to color the description of his work. Traces of Morris were present throughout the evening: small yet propelling footwork (prances, pony steps), homages to the classical tradition seen through a more light-hearted or contemporary lens, at times an almost academic attention to musicality, and even the cohesion of dance, music, and costume elements. While one could absolutely note these similarities in a conversation about dance lineage, the success of the evening was that the dances felt distinctly like Heginbotham’s (save, of course, for the dance by Okamura - though that too felt singular).
Throughout the evening, there were many moments that intrigued me, and many that I laughed at. Given the varied nature of the program, here is just one snapshot from each dance:
Weaver Rhodes in “throwaway”, performing quick gestures on and around his body (a la vogueing), propelled by Daft Punk’s “Buy it, use it, break it, fix it…”, clad in a white cropped jacket decorated with blue, feather-like epaulettes;
Lindsey Jones in “Lulu”, sporting a black and white op-art inspired leotard, walking back and forth across the stage while swinging her arms and tongue side to side (and her eyeballs too, I think);
John Heginbotham and Rhodes in “Old-Fashioned”, wearing colorful shorts and shirts with bric-a-brac reminiscent of lederhosen, putting their flattened palms together and drawing circles in the air (“...wax on, wax off…”);
Jones and Rhodes in “Only if You Mean It”, peppering silly, sexy hip twists with an earnest temps leve, a contraction over a battement to the front, and the windmill arms most often seen in corps de ballet stage exits;
Heginbotham in Okamura’s “Salty Dog”, pointing his finger toward Koci like a pantomime scene from a ballet (Carabosse sprang to mind), back foot extended in tendu, then grabbing the door handle attached to his pant leg in order to promenade while holding his leg up;
And Jones and Rhodes in “Rockefellers”: a postmodern, even futuristic, social dance; together doing low quick turns with their arms above their heads like the Arabian dancer from “The Nutcracker”, then Jones turning into a doll-like version of herself after being resuscitated by Rhodes’ squid-like hand.
During many of these playful moments, the performers would smile, smirk, or glance challengingly at each other. These moments did feel like inside-jokes, but of the sort that I always felt in on (and were often directed toward the audience). The humor in Heginbotham’s work is overt, in that it is grounded by both visible facial expression and physical movement, but remains original and clever as a result of Heginbotham’s sense of choreographic timing in both the pure dancing moments and in the sillier ones, as well as his ability to fold in elements of popular culture. This proved to be a delightful evening, and I would love to see Sugar Space continue to program choreographers from out of state like Heginbotham and like Rosie Trump this past summer.
Amy Falls is the loveDANCEmore Performance Coordinator, regularly contributes to the blog and also performs around town.