When watching an evening of an artist’s shorter pieces, ranging from works in progress to older projects, it is hard to locate a place to begin writing. There is, of course, the desire to go piece by piece and offer the moments that seemed most filled with wonder (Tara McArthur hovering beneath a spiraling fan, the company being seen through and reflected upon layers of mirrors and Betsy Willberg finding new sensitivity in an older duet with Jo Blake) as well as the moments that leave you curious or skeptical. But that approach is hard to get to when considering the evening at large and the ways in which the concert, as a whole, is both wonderful and curious.
It is clear that as a choreographer Charlotte has worked on many projects since arriving in Salt Lake City and with each iteration she makes active decisions through even the longest project. Push (from earlier this year) seemed significantly edited and the use of mirrors in Touching Fire (2010) became more clear with time. It is nice, in this way, to watch and appreciate that she is rigorous in her practice and will continue to offer choreography that becomes more and more fully realized.
But as I watch the evening at large I notice some troubling aspects alongside these nice moments — similar costuming and musical selection throughout, music at precisely the same volume for that matter, and repetitive structures that ask the audience to watch the same lifts, falls and ultimate conclusions (with Jo balancing toward the sky in more than one work). In isolation from one another those lifts are alright and Jo balancing toward the sky is even sublime. But in repetition these moments have a tendency to be redundant and lessen the impact of those counterparts which do change from piece to piece (whether architectural elements or the projection of a sad, sweaty, standup comic).
In some cases it is more than the act of repetition that leaves me curious. The musical scores for example are consistently out-danced by the company (who are a strong unit and individually fierce as hell). Their movements are doubly strong as the Black Angels notes and their easy duets softer than the songs of Sigur Ros. Add to this that every BFA candidate has used these artists at every ACDFA since Merce checked them out at the age of ninety and I am left straining to find the dance within the context that they are massively exceeding.
Now, this isn’t to say I’m in the business of re-choreographing dances. I don’t know if there is an alternative to these choices, or if there is, what it would be. However, as a viewer I know the evening becomes cloudy as a result. And I desire for the clouds to part so I can continue watching.
I see some glimpses of a more evolving aesthetic with the newest work-in-progress, West, which the company worked on this year in Arizona. In these vignettes not only does the music seem more related to the context of the dancing but the group really finds their new relationships. Specifically, Bashaun Williams doesn’t appear to be dancing someone else’s part but his own. The material seems fresh and at the end the company watches one another, really watches, the same way I do. It reminds me that the act of watching, as an audience, is nearly as vulnerable as the act of dancing and being seen.
Ashley Anderson runs loveDANCEmore through her 501c3, ashley anderson dances. You can read her full bio on ashleyandersondances.com