The Austin Chronicle

Briefs: An Episodic Adventure

Reviewed by Jonelle Seitz, December 12, 2014, Arts

Briefs: An Episodic adventure

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.
Dec. 6, 3pm

In a pre-show introduction, choreographer Kathy Dunn Hamrick explained the structure of Briefs: Each of six short story-like episodes would begin the same way, and a seventh section would contain elements from each of the preceding six. In literary terms, Hamrick's structure was more complicated than a haiku, but less so than a villanelle.

But as with poetry, the form itself isn't as important as what emerges from the form's constraints. As Hamrick's talented ensemble of eight unfolded the dance in waves, like a daily rhythm, the lines between the similar and the different became inscrutable. The differences between present and past compounded until the old was nearly eclipsed, but the seventh section (like the villanelle) was a reminder that – regardless of our intentions and efforts – the now is undeniably, inextricably rooted in what came before.

The episodes took place in a murky dream state (somber despite the work's pun-ready title), achieved with a brooding score by Jacob Hamrick (Kathy's son) and penumbric lighting by Stephen Pruitt. The dancers, in stylish leggings and tops in grays and mauves, plus charming accessories – a too-short necktie and a newsboy hat – for the two men, could have been intimates inhabiting a strange dream: They were familiar to each other but detached, taking actions that would prove inexplicable in the light of day. Crossing the stage during a blackout before each episode's beginning, they swapped places for a swirling entrance before exploring, as if in the subconscious, possibilities of togetherness, alignment, and conflict. In one episode, Alyson Dolan and Jack Anthony Dunlap II seemed to slow time and excavate, with great care, the space between them. In another, Jessica Boone repeatedly grabbed Heather Quiring's face with both hands before stalking away.

All eight artists admirably embodied those what-ifs and looked at home in Hamrick's movement, which accepts, but doesn't require, Dolan's sheer contemporary versatility, Quiring's grounded balleticism, Dunlap's explosive jump and tenderness, and Mariclaire Gamble's quick, tall-girl aplomb. Like Hamrick's seventh episode, this strong ensemble is rooted in what predates it – the individuals, their own explorations, and all the things they've danced before – and yet it's an entity altogether in the present, for the work.

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