These microdances had beginnings, middles, and ends, and also heart
Reviewed by Jonelle Seitz, Fri., Dec. 9, 2011
FlashDance, but Flashier: 30 More Dances in 60 MinutesSalvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.
As Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company's hour of shoulder-to-shoulder minidances began, I was reminded of Ellen Bartel's requirements for the one-minute dances in Dance Carousel: Each little piece must have a beginning, middle, and end. In FlashDance, while the dances varied in length – some were a few minutes long, while some were just a few seconds – the same criteria applied. But in FlashDance, the short dances were really movements within a cohesive work, albeit one that moved more quickly than is typical. The thread holding them together was generally strong, so the result was like a collection of related flash fiction.
Hamrick has been making dances for her company for over a decade, and although to some degree she seems to be well-settled in her movement vocabulary, there were moments of freshness. A solo for the only male dancer, Ryan Parent, was angular but ebbing. In another section, the women pulsed their hands softly and unexpectedly amid their larger movements; the effect was like a grace note. Projected numbers kept track of the dances but also imparted mood via type design: A scrawled, quiet 16 signaled a meditative trio sustained by Anna Claire Brunelli, Andrea Comola Williams, and Mariclaire Gamble. Later, in a fascinating study of short and tall, the tallest and shortest dancers performed equivalent steps that resulted in strikingly different effects.
Hamrick's music choices were at times quite smart, like in No. 27, when a groovy beat nearly encouraged the audience to dance while a performer busied herself taping a cardboard box together. At other times, the music seemed less essential than simply atmospheric, and, at its worst, garnered mechanical, predictable responses by the dancers.
In one section, 3-D glasses and strategically placed branches rendered the dancers in a neon forest, but the "magic" wasn't so integral that those who removed their glasses missed out. In a youthful, bubbly section, a square made of cereal boxes flattened and duct-taped together became a prop with special meaning: Two dancers wrapped it, like a glorious cloak, around another, then they posed in the center, framing themselves.
Shortly afterward, the dancers paired off, tenderly slow-dancing into the wings. I expect happy endings from Hamrick. After all, she has a stable career in Austin, a loyal audience, and a family who doesn't mind waking up to find her taping cereal boxes together on the kitchen floor.* But in the last 60 seconds of the show, this happened: A cardboard box was personified. It developed a love interest with another cardboard box, by which it felt ignored, neglected. Despondent and broken-hearted, it exited alone.
Beginning, middle, and end, and also heart.
*I totally made up that last scenario.