MAKedance performs luscious, vulnerable, deep disquietude about women’s Being

29 September 2014 — SANTA MONICA, CA — MAKedance, with choreography and direction by Melanie King McGray, presented its first full evening of modern dance, music, and short film in four dance works at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, CA on September 26 and 27, 2014.

MAKedance at Highways Dancespace 2014Dance works from over a 4-year period of McGray’s career reveal clear technical intentions and pensiveness regarding women’s roles and relationships with each other. While each dance piece stands alone, the work together reveals McGray’s introspective journey to understand women and their evolving with each other and with their worlds. Her ways of knowing through movement are revealed through movement that feels powerful and fragile revealing a sensitivity of women’s ways of knowing. The dances explore touch, sensuality, sensitivity, carving, breath, holding, making space, nurturing, femininity, loss, and support.

In Calme (Premiere), four dancers wearing white, stretch lace, knee-length dresses dance in controlled, sustained, sculptural postures to cello music by Zoe Keating. Lavinia Findikgolu, Arian Winn, and Alison Mattoon perform stage right in unison and Sophia Klass, dancing stage left, contrasts their movement, creating a tension that dictates the mood throughout the dance. The trio performs chair-like poses that evolve into slow pivot turns, while the soloist takes on a life separate from the trio. The trio performs slow motion running while side-lying on the floor. It is as if the dancers are stuck in a time warp, and they cannot be released. What is supposed to be calm is really quite imbedded with embedded tension, almost as if these four women are stuck moving slowly while the music surges forward with tension. There is an underlying feeling of lack of calmness, while everyone assumes a placid exterior. Feet curl, a measure of unrest beats inside each tranquil looking lace encapsulated lovely young woman. The dance explored duets briefly, but returns to the tensility and contrast of the trio and solo, a lack of calm, unrest, and tension.

A sensuous, tactile duet titled OVO (2011) was performed by Lavinia Findigolu and Arian Winn expressing a relationship between two beings, one who nurtures and one who is nurtured. Dressed in layered black-over-white dresses, the dancers reach, roll down, curl around, sense with outstretched palms, support each other, shape, and lift. What exactly is this relationship we see? While dressed as humans, they may be something else. They touch, wrap, and spoon as if all the limbs of one can sense the needs of the other to the core of its being. One rests atop the other, one wraps and is held. With outstretched hands they spoke outwardly with their fingers and fold their hand gestures to communicate. The dance evolves with one dancer curled in a fetal posture, while the other rests with gently folded arms on her. She tap, taps on her, as if to nurture, repeating again, tap, tap, as if to acknowledge to the fetal one that all things are safe.

McGray presented a dance film short titled Chez Moi, which features dancers Lavinia Findikgolu, Charissa Kroeger, and Haley Cooper in the film and Alison Mattoon and Alexandria Yalj performing in flesh colored under garments in the glow created by the film as it is projected onto the screen. Music by Julie Pusch skillfully coordinated with the film draws into a wistful trancelike experience of entering another world. The film begins with footage of a wintry scene with trees and ice, which soon transitions into a greener, more spring-like setting featuring a cottage in which a dancer in the film enters to explore her memories of home, of a familiar, warm, comforting, place although empty of amenities. A dancer dressed in garments one would only wear in the privacy of one’s home, touches the screen, as if to reach out to a memory. The mood softens, a safe place is accessed. The dancer in the film enters into a cottage and finds a favorite room. She touches a window, looks out at a familiar wooded scene. A sentimental longing for favorite places and times long past is clear to each of us. Nostalgia is not just sentimental, but it is relief, and it is comfort. The musical accompaniment states that home is “a place I used to know.” The curtains wave, and a dancer on stage shifts and turns, reaches, poses, finally exists to leave only one dancer in the light of the film. In the footage, a woman repeats an exit from the house three times, as if she trying to avoid forgetting this favorite place, a familiar place we don’t wish to leave. The door finally makes a dull thud as it closes behind her, and she is gone. The effect of the layers of film, live performer, text, and music create a tone poem that transports the audience briefly to another place.

Le Terrior (2013), set to music by Hauschka, was the final dance of the evening. Rich with layers of metaphors, props, costumes, and symbolisms, the dance took a multidimensional path toward achieving its intent. The stage was set with a red tri-fold privacy screen upstage right with clothing draped atop and paper and pens nearby on the floor. A woman enters and removes a scarf. Each dancer enters and removes an overcoat or a sweater. The woman in a red dress, performed by Sofia Klass, begins cutting paper with scissors, and small bits of white paper are scattered like snow all about the space as the four other dancers perform in the flakes. Someone is changing clothing behind the screen and draping clothing items over the top. Lavinia Findikgolu, Alyson Mattoon, Alexandria Yalj, and Arian Winn perform movements that are in unison and in canon. A wiggle, a roll down, a roll up, a reach, a repetition, and a canon based on a gestural concept are ritually performed facing in various directions in the space. The woman in red walks around the room creating a wider spray of paper cuttings about the space. Movements begin to take on a message and a mood. Dancers circle their heads, extend legs, carve with the torso, remain independent of each other, and then repeat movements in canon. As inversions occur, legs wind up into a twisted shape in the air, stuck in time, as if leg sculptures rise up from the earth. Piano music chords become somewhat heavier. Swaying bodies fall to the side revealing a deeper, unhappy tone. Dancers create vibratory gestures in which a poking action gestures to the mouth. Cut paper is everywhere around them. The mood is somber. Dancers move to stage right to write privately on sheets of 8 ½” x 11” paper. Dancers surreptitiously wrote personal messages for the audience to read, “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” “Red Brick,” etc. We could not read all four of the papers however. The dancers tear their sheets of paper and the messages volunteer to become mixed with show. Four dancers face upstage sitting side-by-side interlocking arms, roll back, switch the interlock, gesture with upward reaching, intertwined legs. Dancers roll away from one another and perform a familiar childhood games of making snow angels with arms and legs opening and losing in what happens to be fake paper snow. The feeling is sullen, magical, and sad.

King McGray shares her artistic ideas with great sensitivity and layering. She has a calm maturity in her choreographic voice and she directs her dancers well. She creates movement that is well informed technically, and her dancers connectivity provide solid performances. Her movement in all of her work in this evening of dances involved core-distal and cross-lateral connectivity with carving, shaping, spoking, and arc-ing of limbs into a full use of dancers’ kinesphere. Her technical approach to movement is clear and her dancers messages stay within a psychological kinesphere that keeps their stories private, between each other.

The four dances had their own messages and intentions, the works tended to feel related to each other because the range of the movement qualities remains similar from piece to piece. There is an evenness in the energy levels of the work, which ties the mood of one piece to the next. King McGray has achieved a richly crafted first full evening of dances that were well conceived, composed, rehearsed, and performed. The overall similarity of mood felt throughout the works are likely due to common themes being explored, but I do believe some healthy risk-taking with phrasing and energy qualities will push McGray’s strengths even further.

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