SALT in Concert showcased works by choreographers from across the nation, “presenting fresh perspectives in dance,” as Artistic Director Michelle Nielsen described in her program note.
I am torn between appreciating that SALT didn’t try to act like the pieces they presented were related, and wishing that they were related.
The attention to detail from SALT’s organizers is quite evident, and the company seems to be run very well, especially for such a relatively new organization. Director Nielsen greeted audience-members at the entrance to the show, and at least four others were there handling tickets, programs, and questions.
The dancers of SALT Contemporary Dance are well-trained and extremely talented. Though the individual dancers exhibit distinct artistry, and although the company works with many different choreographers, SALT’s collective style is characterized by spinal fluidity and a close connection to the floor.
The first piece, “A Particulate History of Friendship, The Trial and Absence of Stillard Mave” choreographed by Alex Ketley, featured wonderful moments of sustained dancer-to-dancer eye contact, and dancer-to-audience eye contact. Also noteworthy were the expressive shoulders of Amy Gunter Lolofie, which made her choreographic interpretations unique. Throughout the piece, the large number of performers (including both SALT and SALT II dancers) roamed around beyond the stage, making the Grand Hall at The Gateway feel again like the pedestrian-filled train station it once was.
After such a large group number, it was refreshing to see a work with only three performers. “Paper Cuts” by Peter Chu featured brown paper bags and brown paper shreds as props. What stood out most in this performance was Becca Fullmer’s intense energy, her full-body commitment to her movement (especially in multiple falls to the ground), and the beyond-openness of her front body when the choreography called for it. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Becca take her movement so far.
Next, two Brendan Duggan premieres were showcased back to back, exhibiting a wide range of choreographic style. Performed by SALT II, Duggan’s memorable “Behind a Waterfall” was successful in humorously pointing out the absurdity of clamoring for attention and approval via social media. It was perhaps a good choice for a second company because the focus was much more on the easily relatable characters than on technique.
Duggan’s “Will the Statue of Your Beauty Walk?” was an excellent piece to follow, and the one I found most interesting. It began with small, natural human gestures that were strikingly lovely when performed in unison. This choreography and execution suggested to me a self-consciousness or worry that was maybe related to putting on the right appearance, or maybe about approval or relevancy. Rebecca Aneloski’s eyes shone with believable emotion, making her approach all the more poignant.
Then the dancers released their ponytails to let their hair down, which was maybe symbolic of releasing from some kind of constraints or expectations. I very much appreciated the unique “hair-ography” that followed.
The male dancers of the company were left watching it and, one at a time, were pulled into the group of hair-women and pushed around and through it. The men alternately tagged each other in to be moved throughout the hair-women, or escaped to take a break and walk around the perimeter of the stage. It is unclear to me what inspired this (maybe the women wanted the men to understand what they were going through, and it was intense for the men to experience it or to not know how to help), but it was interesting to watch nonetheless.
This section dissolved into some awesome partnering between Logan McGill and Arianna Brunell. The inventive choreography was smoothly executed and enthralling to watch.
I know that sometimes choreographers want to leave their work open to audience interpretation, but I would have liked more clarity as to how the distinct sections of “Will the Statue of Your Beauty Walk?” were related, and what the full intention was behind the piece. Bits of vocal text at the beginning and middle gave hints, but they were not really quite enough for me.
The concert closed with Joni McDonald’s “Beyond the Limitation,” that featured two couples doing interesting partner work to intense ambient music. For a company that prides themselves on being cutting-edge, I would recommend for them to move on from this sort of music. The theme or story of this piece also felt under-developed, but the intricate partnering was an excellent example of a choreographer playing to her strengths.
Overall, SALT in Concert was an interesting and enjoyable show, and I very much look forward to seeing what SALT shares next.
Kendall Fischer is the Artistic Director of Myriad Dance Company. In addition to dancing with Myriad and with Voodoo Productions, she has also enjoyed opportunities with SBDance, Municipal Ballet Co, and La Rouge Entertainment, among others.