By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk |
On April 13, 2013 at 7:45 AM, updated April 13, 2013 at 7:46 AM
View original on MassLive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids Ballet’s “Movemedia,” you might say, is a workshop for emerging choreographers to create brand new dances with the resources to make it happen.

Three premieres on one night suggest as much.

Workshops, however, usually are rough cuts, and “Movemedia I,” which opened Friday evening at GRBC’s Wege Theatre, had few ragged edges in polished program of contemporary dance that expanded minds as well as repertoire.

Lights, sound and projections were part of the evening as well as paint, paper, Russian poetry and piano on roller skates. Toe shoes, almost, were not. Only in the fifth and final work of the evening did women appear on pointe.

The evening, which repeats tonight, was capped off by “Cold Winter’s Waiting,” a work by Brian Enos, GRBC’s artist-in-residence for this year’s “Movemedia I.”

Friday’s first performance for an audience was a delicious taste of what’s to come by Enos in two week when he unveils a piece especially made for GRBC for “Movemedia II.”

“Cold Winter’s Waiting,” which Enos created for a National Choreographer’s Initiative, featured four men, four women, in a performance undeniably masculine and athletic, set to cinematic music.

Enos asked for everything and got it, beginning with fearless solo work by Kyohei Yoshida but also a solo moment by Hannah Wilcox that was graceful and by Connie Flachs that was revelatory.

But superb partnering among four couples, engaging ensemble work for men and women and all together made the 20-minute piece anything but cold and certainly worth the wait.

Three pieces were by two company dancers, new to Grand Rapids Ballet this year, both with a background in contemporary dance.

Alienation and isolation were the themes in David Strong’s “Omieiam,” exploring the problem of the individual freeing himself from his own self-imposed restraints.

The challenge for the eight performers, including Strong himself, was moving in tight, compact formations, practically joined at the rolling shoulders and rotating hips.

Dancing within a scrum is an entirely new experience that strong accomplished deftly.

Thomas Dancy’s “And Etudes” was all about cheeky humor, with guest pianist Stuart Leitch being a good sport and gamely playing Chopin Etudes on a baby grand piano on wheels as the dancers rolled player and piano around the stage.

Cassidy Isaacson was a standout on the piece for five dancers in black-tailed concert garb and brightly colored socks. Five piano benches on wheels all served as dancer partners as well as shields, puppet stages and security blankets among other things.

It was a flying circus that might have been choreographed by Monty Python.

Two solo works were on the program.

Dancy’s “Not Afraid of Inconvenience” starred Yuka Oba in the aftermath of a funeral, coming to terms with the situation and her feelings. Dancing in front of spectral projections by Michael Auer, Oba was supple one moment, angular the next, the personification of a conflicted, emotional teenager.

A work by last year’s “Movemedia” artist-in-residence, Olivier Wevers, had been expected. Late in the game, it was replaced by an excerpt from a longer ballet titled “Time Out of Line” by choreographer Dominic Walsh, of Houston Ballet, who was in town along with dancer Domenico Luciano to dance the work to music of Arcangelo Corelli.

Luciano is tall and lanky with amazing arabesque, an image shattered moments later by rotations and contortions as if fifth position had been followed by a fifth of something wet.

The second half involved Luciano dancing on runway of paper blotted with paint. By the time it was over, the canvas was covered much as Jackson Pollock might have accomplished had he painted with his feet, too.

A live camera caught the action and sent it to a screen over the stage. While the presence of the camera was a distraction, the audience often got a two-sided look at an amazing dancer at work.