Local Arts Reviews


Dougherty Arts Center, Dec. 7

The many paths we walk can shape the people we become in life. Ballet East united old and new troupe dancers and choreographers to present multiple works in Paths.

The first dance was a heartfelt and sympathetic display of The Immigrants, those American ancestors whose hope and struggles were conveyed by choreographer Jason Brooks through one-legged balancing turns and crouching bodies. Arms reached above, to the side, forward, searching for the dream of stability and riches. The journey on boat to last stop Ellis Island was emulated in a final statuesque posture with dancers huddled below in either submission or overwhelming gratitude. Former Ballet East contributor Dixon Mena danced his choreographed and speedy piece Dentro de Mi? His head moved opposite his appendages, his chest pushed forward, and yet his legs wanted to freeze. The jerking impulses seemed as if he were riding a roller coaster within himself or watching the quick circuitry of nervelike fiber optics from the inside. This path reminded me of doubt's vacillating quality and its opposing force -- passionate decisions made hastily and regrettably in afterthought.

Next came Leticia Rodriquez's Flights With No Safety. A dancer ran stationary downstage-left to the spiritual music of Sweet Honey in the Rock; on her diagonal, passengers hypnotically obeyed a flight attendant's pre-emptive instructions on how to endure disastrous events while in flight. The thick sounds of Sweet Honey urged us to go back home, returning to a folksy, simpler life when all one needed to go from here to there were two active legs and feet. Constant dangers were made manageable by switching through yogalike postures of standing on one's head or lying face down in cobra pose. When Ananda Mayi Moss' Eye for an I opened, the stage was smoky with a blinking red light flashing the stage like a seedy hotel bar sign. Lighting designer Stephen Pruitt strutted his stuff, matching the sultriness of the dancers with darkly expressive colors. Eerily, the performers glided into a remixed version of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," bending their spines and bodies effortlessly, climaxing into a duet with one woman on the top of a ladder and the other attempting to climb using a thick rope of silky cloth.

Once Jeremy Ecker charged onto the stage as a blond primitive, bare-chested and painted, we were plunged into Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Artistic Director Rodolfo Mendez choreographed this path that used grand gestures and jumps to communicate the insurmountable conflict of being alone in the wilderness of our fears. The program concluded with a heavenly piece, Assistant Artistic Director Melissa Villarreal's Seven Spirits for the Gemini Soul. White, gossamer cloths adorned the dancers who floated and skimmed like ghosts with blessings to offer the living. Of all the dances, this was the most spectacular in its flow and rhythm, with bodies interweaving and lightly pouncing upon the stage in terrific form.

Because paths can be such obvious things, the movement upon them is taken for granted. Ballet East has alerted us to look at our feet as we travel and pause to take notes about our regressions and progressions on that journey.

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new dance, Paths, Ballet East Dance Theatre, Dixon Mena, Jason Brooks, The Immigrants, Dentro de Mi?, Leticia Rodriquez, Flights with No Safety, Ananda Mayi Moss, Eye for an I, Stephen Pruitt, Jeremy Ecker, Rodolfo Mendez, Melissa Villarreal, Seven Spirits for the Gemini Soul

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