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Devotion

The dance sparkles with captivating images of water and weightlessness

Reviewed by Dawn Davis Loring, Fri., June 24, 2011

Arts Review

Devotion

Power Plant Intake Building on Lady Bird Lake, 474-5664

www.bluelapislight.org

Through June 26

Running time: 45 min.

Even before the Blue Lapis Light concert began, Lady Bird Lake began its own show in the sultry evening air. Bats flew, water lapped, and as a special surprise, a gorgeous lunar eclipse had the audience spellbound. It was as if the environment conspired with Artistic Director Sally Jacques to create an enchanted space for the audience. The piece, aptly named Devotion, was dedicated "to the waters of the Earth," and I experienced the ripples and swells of this work from a sightseeing boat on the lake (which I highly recommend).

It seems that whether you are immersed in it or on the surface of it, the movement of water is impossible to ignore – indeed, you are immediately aware of the constant shift and drift. Throughout the evening, the boat operator periodically motored us closer, angling for a better view, and – perhaps unknowingly – engaged us as movers as we stretched and adjusted to our shifting vantage points. But as enjoyable as it was, I found the show both gorgeous and puzzling.

A shimmering dancer appears, welcoming us to the space with wide, sweeping arm gestures, and then disappears unexpectedly into the water. Her delightful dive triggers a stately procession of performers arriving by land and by sea – eerily lit rowers wielding long poles, a quartet of trapeze dancers rising from the waters, six wall dancers rappelling in slow motion, and a couple performing tender duets in nooks between the columnlike structures of the power plant intake building.

The ambitious work sparkles with startlingly beautiful images of weightlessness, particularly when the trapeze dancers fling themselves from high perches and seem to explode and tumble through the air like tendrils of fireworks. The wall dancers sway side to side meditatively or dangle upside down, suspended by ropes. The windows of the building host bubbling and boiling video installation by Scott Hathaway, and the lighting design by longtime collaborator Jason Amato occasionally creates blue and purple shadow dancers on the walls.

Regardless of the theme, Jacques' work continues to be inspired and immersive, and the undercurrents and imagery tease the mind long after the performance concludes. During my decadelong absence from Austin, her work has traveled from scaffolding to harnesses, reaching for even greater heights while maintaining a core group of creative collaborators including Amato, costumer Kari Perkins, and sound engineer William Meadows. The diversity of Blue Lapis Light's venues continues to amaze, and Jacques' dancers are strong and committed to performing the physically risky work.

However, I was puzzled by the costumes, which blended so closely with the walls it was difficult to distinguish some of the movements, and also by the sometimes repetitive quality of the cyclical choreography. The apparatus the company uses is incredibly sophisticated and allows for some astonishing movement choices impossible for land-based or gravity-bound dancers, but I wonder if the equipment is ultimately liberating or limiting. In any case, I'm anxious to see more of this work and the direction it is going. It was indeed a captivating evening.

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