When watching a performance, there are two things that may keep me on the edge of my seat: a gripping show or the need to see over the head of the (much taller) person in front of me.
This weekend, I experienced a little bit of both while watching “Off the EDGE,” a two-night series of dance performances curated by Lauri Stallings of gloATL. In an effort to introduce as much culture to the Atlanta community as possible, Stallings showcased a different set of performers on each night.
Friday night’s show at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts featured pieces by numerous dancers and choreographers, both local and from around the nation, including Emory’s own Emory Dance Company (EDC), who performed Kyle Abraham’s “Date Night.” The piece was choreographed for and set on Emory students last fall.
The show opened with excerpts from “Monger,” a group piece by LA-based BodyTraffic. Dressed in pedestrian-style costumes, the dancers wore aprons denoting their status in the working class. The theatrical piece explored the relationships between authority figures and common people, as well as men and women — while the women danced, the men stood to the side in close observation, watching in a suggestively sexual manner.
When the men took the stage, however, the women were rarely present. The two gender groups were united only under a common factor of fear for “Mrs. Margaret,” whose presence was not shown by a dancer, but rather, by the ringing of a bell.
When the bell sounded, dancers would step to a microphone and look up as if hailing a divine figure to whom they apologized verbally for misbehavior (“I promise it won’t happen again!”) or to beg for a different fate (“But Mrs. Margaret, I am too young!”). As an engaging and active piece that highlighted some of society’s continuing disparities through traditional dance movement and vocabulary, it was an effective way of opening the show and garnering interest among audience members.
An untitled solo by Zoe Scofield of zoe|juniper from Seattle, Wa. served as a stark contrast from the previous piece. A video of food coloring being dropped into a body of water was projected across the stage as the backdrop to Scofield’s solo, which was vested in technique and precision. The carefully placed yet rapid movement was juxtaposed against the minimalist sound of water drops, which transitioned eventually into a Johann Sebastian Bach piece.
Scofield was dressed in a leotard that allowed the audience to focus on the lines of her body as she stepped across the stage, performing choreography that appeared unnatural and bizarre. She moved through the untraditional steps so smoothly, however, that it made even the most awkward choreography seem natural to the human body. Though the specificity and intricacy with which she moved were impressive, the repetition and monotony of style and tempo in the choreography made the solo feel as if it had gone on for too long, making the video background ultimately more interesting than the dance itself.
EDC’s action-filled “Date Night” was the antidote to Scofield’s solo, as dancers ran on and off the stage, merging seamlessly between pedestrian actions and rapidly flowing movement. The piece, which observes the dating culture, was relatable in subject matter, and the speed at which the dancers moved kept audience members engaged in the narrative.
New York City-based Keigwin + Company showed repertory — four of six original vignettes from the company’s 2006 “Love Songs” — a portion of which company member Matthew Baker taught in a master class to Emory students and the local public at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts last Friday.
Perhaps the most commendable piece of the night, “Love Songs” consisted of a series of duets focused on the nature of relationships, from unbridled sexual tension to passionate love. The use of humor, theatrics and beautiful technique made for a perfect combination of entertainment and high culture.
The show closed with a stunningly complex duet of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in New York City. “Duet From Meadow,” borrowed from the vocabularies of ballet and modern with some influence from other art forms, producing an elegant partnership between a male and a female dancer.
The extreme flexibility of both dancers led to various contortions akin to the work of Pilobolus, a contemporary dance company whose dancers are known for creating seemingly impossible shapes with their bodies by balancing and counterbalancing on and against one another.
The dancers were costumed in unitards that accentuated the beauty of their movement and the choreography showcased the need for two human bodies to be working together with extreme grace, precision and trust — such as when the woman’s entire balance was dependent upon the male dancer’s hand. This piece left the audience with a sense of awe, an ideal way to finish the night.
Though I wasn’t over the edge about Off the EDGE, I was certainly at the edge of my seat for the majority of the performance. The variance in genres and subject matters made for a night of creativity and culture — and that kind of diversity is not often experienced at a single show.
— Contact Alice Chen.