Big Range Austin Dance Festival 2012, Program A

BRADF 2012's opener embraced the experimental but showed deep thinking and skilled execution

Show of support: Jude Hickey and Kelly Hasandras in Ellen Bartel's Somebody Else
Show of support: Jude Hickey and Kelly Hasandras in Ellen Bartel's "Somebody Else" (Photo courtesy of Stephen Pruitt)

Big Range Austin Dance Festival 2012, Program A

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd., 696-4856
Through July 1 (Program B: June 28-29, 8pm; Program C: June 28-29, 9:30pm; Program D: June 30, 8pm; July 1, 2pm)

Spank Dance Company's Big Range Austin Dance Festival opened its fifth year with a program that embraced the experimental but showed deep thinking and, often, skilled execution. Curated by Spank Artistic Director Ellen Bartel and a review committee that represented a who's who of local contemporary dance, the 2012 edition represents mostly local talent plus a few out-of-towners, such as Lucy Lee Yim of Portland, Ore. In her "light noise," Yim's performance was one element in an aesthetically engaging trio of movement, video – the backdrop of colorful coils spinning back and forth was my favorite – and sound (the latter two by Jesse Mejia, also of Portland).

In Mandie Pitre's "Chrysalis Situation," three women in variations of black and featherlike, exaggerated eyelashes performed otherworldly rituals. Among them, Anna Nelms's movement quality and line kept me engaged, but the structure of the piece was as murky as its setting. Rather than create a world, Rosalyn Nasky's "Land of the Living," in which she performed upstage of musician Steve Snowden, who plucked the spines of a mic'd cactus, honed in on one. In platform heels and a tailored blazer, Nasky's sometimes jerky, sometimes luscious movements channeled the rituals of insects or small reptiles. As wonderful as the works she showed at BRADF in 2011 and 2010, the piece was a warm-blooded exploration of formality and nature.

In David Justin's trio "Second Apostrophe," two video cameras alternately showed competing perspectives of the live action on a tilted screen that loomed above the dancers' heads, but the concept was perhaps more interesting than the performance itself.

"Somebody Else," choreographed by Bartel, in collaboration with her 10 dancers, to music by Adam Sultan, began with the dancers moving in unison. But Kelly Hasandras periodically lagged out, addressing the audience: "I made promises! People were depending on me!" Once Jude Hickey carried her back to the group, another carried him, and they continued, in turn, until each had supported another, without fanfare. It wasn't philanthropy or altruism; it was simple humanity – the rituals of support and acceptance surrounding the crushing loss of opportunity.

Melissa Watt's "Dancer's Foot and La Familia Que..." also had a large cast. A riff on the high-drama telenovela, the piece (created in collaboration with the dancers) made use of video, song, dance, spoken text, pig latin, and "The Time Warp" song from The Rocky Horror Show, but the result, like its title, felt like an incomplete draft of a clever idea. L. Brooke Schlecte's "dirt, light, me" was a rough solo danced by Sarah Newton among and in rows of soil on the floor. Lit by harsh, industrial bulbs in each corner of the stage, which she herself turned on, one at a time, Newton pounded her body to the floor and ground the dirt over her skin. While "Somebody Else" evoked the human condition, Schlecte's work was narrow, gritty, and personal.

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Big Range Austin Dance Festival 2012, Spank Dance Company, Ellen Bartel, Mandie Pitre, Rosalyn Nasky, Steve Snowden, David Justin, Adam Sultan, Kelly Hasandras, Jude Hickey, Melissa Watt, L. Brooke Schlecte, Sarah Newton

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