At its best, this program of five choreographers riffing on 'Heart' pulled me in and provoked me to deeper exploration

Deep thoughts, with heart: (l-r) Amy Myers, Christine Wong, and Alyson Dolan in One Heart
Deep thoughts, with heart: (l-r) Amy Myers, Christine Wong, and Alyson Dolan in "One Heart" (Photo courtesy of Caroline Mowry)


Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside
Sept. 28

Life-pumping organ, humanity's first metronome, metonym for the innermost essence of vitality: "Heart" seemed broadly defined in Ariel Dance Theatre's concert of five choreographers' variations on the theme. But the differences among the dances made, for me, an opportunity to clarify my understanding of "heart": It's the experience of being pulled into something headfirst, provoked into deeper exploration.

Sharon Marroquín's "Chambers" was one of those experiences. I usually anticipate Marroquín's deeply empathetic yet vastly open dances with a blend of eagerness and trepidation. But my approach didn't keep me from feeling undone by the piece dedicated to her brother, who is recovering from a stroke. After a prologue in which Marroquín's school-age son arranged a collection of seashells center stage, the exquisitely musical Angie Obermeyer, Lisa Del Rosario, Marroquín, and Nicole Lazo appeared one after the other, each in a rectangle of light in one quadrant of the stage. Each worried, reaching solo, to alternately driving and plaintive music by Graham Reynolds, picked up where the last one had left off: Del Rosario cradled her left arm – its slight, delicate atrophy from fingers to elbow the result of an accident years earlier – and Marroquín, in turn, raised her left arm with her right only to watch the left drop back to her side. Outfitted in loose tops and pants, two in red and two in indigo (costumes by Magdalena Jarkowiec), the women seemed not just the chambers of the organ but also members of a family or facets of a self (is there a difference?) that had fallen out of concert.

Before "Chambers," Jessica Lindberg's adaptation of Loïe Fuller's 1896 "Fire Dance" set a contemplative mood, suggesting the mystère of a time when electric lighting had just replaced the harnessed terror of gas flames. I found less to explore in the pair of tell-it-to-me works by Steve Ochoa, but director Andrea Ariel's finale "One Heart" was coolly engaging: A trio of women morphed together into a single being, or atom, until wood and metal rhythms built to a crash, Stephen Pruitt's pools of light broke into shards, and the dancers, in fission, seemed to quantum-leap to isolated corners.

The penultimate work was "Resonance," a playful, mesmerizing duet by Heloise Gold and percussionist Nick Hennies on a vibraphone. When I saw a version of the piece last June, I marveled at Gold's bodily channeling of soundwave-play and at how this lucidity transferred to some far corners of my mind. This time, I explored the arc of the work and saw a sexual encounter: The mood was luxuriant, then trembling, and finally intimate and warm as the performers lay on the floor behind the instrument, the soles of their feet barely brushing its pipes.

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Heart, Austin dance, Ariel Dance Theatre, Andrea Ariel, Sharon Marroquin, Angie Obermeyer, Lisa Del Rosario, Nicole Lazo, Steve Ochoa, Heloise Gold, Jessica Lindberg, Graham Reynolds, Nick Hennies, Magdalena Jarkowiec

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