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There, the Magnificent

Kathy Dunn Hamrick's latest dance celebrated small virtues, little kindnesses, and the joys of being close

Reviewed by Robert Faires, Fri., June 13, 2014

This is Carissa: (l-r) Mariclaire Gamble, Carissa Topham, and Shari Brown
"This is Carissa": (l-r) Mariclaire Gamble, Carissa Topham, and Shari Brown
Photo courtesy of Lynn Lane

There, the Magnificent

AustinVentures StudioTheater, 501 W. Third
June 7

Before I begin, may I just say how nice you look today.

Oh, I've noticed. In fact, I've long admired your gift for dressing well. Ordinarily, I wouldn't address you, dear reader, so personally in a review, but I've been inspired to do so by There, the Magnificent, Kathy Dunn Hamrick's latest dance. In it, you see, the performers weren't just anonymous bodies moving about the stage but individuals, helpfully introduced to us with short paragraphs projected on the large screen behind them. The thing is, these weren't like the bios in programs, listing credits and professional accomplishments, but observations about these peoples' lives and characters. Jessica, we were told, "irons her clothes every morning, helps her nephew with multiplication tables, and hasn't missed a day of work in five years." Heather, who "would do anything for anybody," "makes sandwiches for the homeless every weekend." Almost all of the text cataloged good deeds and traits. That they were in the main small virtues and little kindnesses ("holds doors open for others," "loses at Putt-Putt on purpose") just made them the more endearing – they're the kind of details gleaned from close inspection of a life, seen by only the dearest of friends.

The comments engendered feelings of warmth toward the dancers, a sense that they were decent, considerate, giving people – a sense confirmed in their behavior: their bodies ever open, with arms outstretched, as if inviting embrace; their broad smiles that broadened more whenever one dancer caught another's eye; their quickness in pairing up and gentle partnering when moving together. These dancers always wanted to be dancing with someone, to touch and be touched. Their physical closeness mirrored that need we all feel to be close to others and communicated those singular joys of companionship and supporting someone we hold dear.

Layered onto this were suggestions of the past – the women's sleeveless tops and Capri-style leggings, and Ray Smith's accordion summoning such romantic hits as "Summertime," "La Vie en Rose," and "On the Street Where You Live" threw us back a good half-century – recalling days when we were more prone to be with and do for others face-to-face, when little kindnesses seemed to matter more. But Hamrick made us equally mindful of the future: A lone leaf kept fluttering by onscreen (one of Jacob Hamrick's joyous cartoon contributions) as if to remind us that time is fleeting and no one will be here forever. Its hint of loss echoed Hamrick's previous work, The Undoing of Nonet, thus making this dance a call to notice those around us and what they do, for us and others, before they're gone. There, the Magnificent's small gestures added up into something big: a bigness of heart both deeply moving and inspiring.

So I thought you should know that I've always appreciated your fashion sense. And what a careful reader you are.

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