GroundWorks DanceTheater presented a weekend of firsts Friday and Saturday at Glendale Cemetery with a program building up to the world premieres of CurrentFrame by Amy Miller and Brubeck by David Shimotakahara at the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival.
In Current Frame, created by artistic associate Amy Miller, Katie Wells Taylor and Gary Lenington performed a duet to the live music of Biber, the Passacaglia violin solo, played by onstage violinist Hanne-Berit Hahnemann. It was a rare treat to see a dance performed to the living, breathing phrasing of a musician rather than a recording. Miller said her goal in creating the dance was to explore the interplay between the Baroque composer’s formal structure and the emotional undercurrents found in the music.
Saturday night’s performance was a lesson in geometry as the pair worked closely together shaping their bodies, with their linear arms prominently featured. Taylor and Lenington spent much of their dance working side by side, clasping their arms next to each other and he swinging her around on his forearm. The piece featured constant give and take, with the dancers leaning against each other in angular formations. Playful elements included Taylor lightly pushing and smacking Lenington on the rear end, plus him grabbing one of her feet as she kicked it back, followed by the dancers leaning together in the other direction.
The piece de resistance was the world premiere of artistic director Shimotakahara’s Brubeck, a tribute to legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck set to seven of his works. The dance opened with the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s bestknown piece — Take Five, well-known for its catchy sax solo and unusual 5/4 time. This was a bright splash of a dance featuring the entire company in full sass mode, the women wearing red, pink and purple dresses and the men in green and blue golf shirts.
The fun continued with the dancers cavorting in cool hats in Kathy’s Waltz, forming a sort of chorus line while holding onto each other’s waists and traveling backward in a line. New to the company was Noelle Cotler, who sported an unforgettable smile.
Shimotakahara has created plenty of playful moments in this dance, including having Wells spin Highfield around multiple times in Pick Up Sticks, until he’s acting dizzy. The dance slowed down for a romantic Wells-Highfield duet set to Nocturne No. 14, Five for Ten Small Fingers and then ended with the frolicsome full company in cute bathing suits for Blue Rondo a la Turk, a feel-good ode to summer.
With Brubeck, Shimotakahara continues his flair for creating dance tributes to American musical greats, including Boom Boom, the celebration of the American blues danced at last year’s festival.
GroundWorks reprised the ever-fascinating CoDa, created by Israeli-born choreographer Ronen Koresh to the music of French composer Rene Aubry. The multi-part dance has repeated elements of Israeli folk dance as well as a number of comedic, quirky flourishes in the songs Staccato and Chaloupee, performed by Felise Bagley and Lenington, and Cotler and Highfield, respectively. The climax of the piece was the fierce aggression in Voleurs de Bagdad, where anger and tension builds between changing partnerships among Taylor, Lenington, Highfield and Bagley.
Finally, it was a joy watching Bagley and Highfield fold and unfold their bodies in languorous fashion in the slow, fluid Sweet, set to Bobby McFerrin’s Sweet in the Morning. The piece starts with a lot of extremely close, sexy floorwork that has the couple rising slowly into standing position, she in a beautiful arabesque.
By Kerry Clawson
Ohio.com / Beacon Journal arts writer