Plain Dealer Dance Critic reviews MorrisonDance in SYZYGY

cleveland.com

MorrisonDance and Travesty Dance Group head in distinctive directions at Cleveland Public Theatre

Published: Friday, May 11, 2012, 11:30 AM     Updated: Friday, May 11, 2012, 11:50 AM
Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer By Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer

The local companies taking part in DanceWorks 12 at Cleveland Public Theatre couldn’t be more different in style and sensibility. That’s certainly the case with MorrisonDance and Travesty Dance Group, which are performing separately on the same program this weekend.

Travesty is presenting an expansive work, “I Fight,” about the joys and travails of immigration, while MorrisonDance offers no fewer than six short pieces that travel all over the expressive map.

Kimberly Karpanty, artistic director of Travesty, draws on family history for “I Fight,” which unfolds in six highly emotional sections, with family photos setting each scene. The journey begins in Italy, where the father and mother (Eric van Baars and Tanya Mucci) court, marry and make plans for a better life in the United States.

What follows in this heartfelt and forceful dance-theater piece is a series of anguished outpourings, conflicts and a finale of acceptance. Karpanty portrays the perseverance of the family members in spurts of weighted movement and heated interactions, with shoes providing a metaphor for the value and resolve of their voyage.

The dancers — also including Dav Burrington, Jessico Mego, Jennifer Sandoval and Shannon Sefcik — perform with intense focus to music by Corigliano, Verdi, Berio and others. At the end, in a touching gesture, each performer’s ethnic background is projected on the screen.

The contrasts couldn’t be more striking when MorrisonDance makes its first appearance with rubber balls sliding across the stage in “When the Planets Align,” artistic director Sarah Morrison’s take on universal happenings. The dancers soon line up to lift their respective planets in slow-moving patterns.

In quick succession come the rest of Morrison’s creations, including a zany disco number for three dancers set to music by James Brown. “Brainwaves” introduces the choreographer herself emerging from long white fabric attached to cellist Janine Jones, whose playing triggers a spectrum of colors in the brain images on the screen.

Morrison explores the difficulty of relationships in the urgently succinct “Gone,” which places an impassioned Bethany Nesta in torrid pursuit of Kevin Marr, who is distracted by his cell phone until he realizes that his inamorata has fled.

“Syzygy,” the title both of the next Morrison piece and her company’s portion of the program, begins with dancers with backs glued to one another and becomes a quartet of varied pairings, lifts and gestures reflecting the title’s emphasis on opposite responses.

From the serious, Morrison turns to the ridiculous in “Why?,” a giddy tribute to the mating habits of flamingos (shown in a funny PBS video) and other animals. The company’s six dancers arrive with flamingo heads (by Scott Radke) on their arms. They peck this way and that to Vyvienne Long’s whimsical music before finally coming together to form two hearts. It’s silly and adorable.

© 2012 cleveland.com. All rights reserved.

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