Voices of Rhythm

Spoken word added spark, but dance still spoke the loudest in Tapestry's show

Arts Review

Voices of Rhythm

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

Oct. 30

In Tapestry Dance Company's Voices of Rhythm, the rhythms spoke louder than the voices. Spoken-word master Zell Miller III offered ruminations and motivations, and while the weave of text and dance created a nice pace for the show, the spoken word was no match for the company's skill and energy. At one point, Miller threw the notebook he read from to the floor and went to stand in a corner (O futility of words! O writer's angst!). In a later interlude, Tapestry Artistic Director Acia Gray sat next to him on a bench and patted his back. It was almost as if the dance company was humoring him.

The text, however, helped to provide a loose structure for the evening. Set against graffiti and scaffolding, the eight dancers (including Gray, who presided over most of the show from atop a scaffold upstage right) moved among groupings and moods to a varied soundtrack of jazz and spoken word. A theme oft-revisited was "Generation X," which was a bit confusing because the dancers seemed to play young characters, wearing backpacks and bright colors and hanging out in an alley, and most Gen Xers are now in their 30s or 40s. Either the action was set in the past or, strangely, the juvenile ideas and motivational speeches were actually directed at us thirty- and fortysomethings, as if we were still in our formative years, needing a kick in the pants and a boost for the ego. (I can attest, as a member of Generation X, that we may indeed need these things, but we are no longer relevant.)

Regardless of the concept, though, Tapestry's roster of diverse dancers – five of whom are new to the company this season – made the show interesting with many rich moments. Siobhan Cook, daughter of Tapestry co-founder Deirdre Strand, gained professional status this year after performing as a member of the apprentice company Visions in Rhythm. Cook has wonderfully long arms and legs to fling through space, a youthful rawness, and a range of real expression. She shares her exuberance with the audience so that we, too, feel the liveliness of youthful strength paired with skill. Adriana Ray and Kirstin Grbic – who performed a short contemporary dance section as well as tap – were capable enough. Tanya Rivard was too, but I couldn't get past her forced smile. Travis Knights, a fierce dancer whose last gig was with Tap Dogs, is stylistically singular and, really, on another plane altogether. His power, combined with looseness, a great range of expression, and a deeper use of level – a lower center of gravity, perhaps – was arresting.

Not that Matt Shields, the veteran male dancer, is a force to discount. His scrappy style is fun to watch, and it's completely different from the conservative sensuality of Brenna Kuhn, who has been a principal with the company since 2002. And, of course, when Gray herself takes the floor, her masterful rhythms can be seen resonating throughout her body. Does she become the rhythm, or does the rhythm become her? She is the master of her instrument.

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Voices of Rhythm, Tapestry Dance Company, Acia Gray, Zell Miller III, Matt Shields, Brenna Kuhn, Siobhan Cook, Adriana Ray, Kirstin Grbic, Tanya Rivard, Travis Knights, Deirdre Strand, Visions in Rhythm

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