Dance Review: Borderless

This short-run dance program showcased astounding talent

Courtesy of Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre

A few things emerge in every culture: language, social structures, and, of course, the power of dance. In Borderless, local choreographer Andrea Ariel collaborated with some truly stellar local dancers and musicians to weave a tapestry of universal connections.

That was her stated goal: to explore the things that connect and disconnect us all. Ariel gathered a crackshot team to investigate this central concept. Choreographers Anuradha Naimpally (Austin Dance India), Luis Ordaz Gutiérrez (Proyecto Teatro), Jun “Sunny” Shen (Shen Jun Movement Effect), and Ciceley Fullylove (independent dancer, choreographer, and singer) presented in late June a two-night dance delight, pushing the realms of what bodies can do.

As audience members trickled in, the four main choreographers already lounged onstage at the Draylen Mason Music Studio at KMFA Classical 89.5, writing screeds about “what is home.” When the musicians, an impressive amalgamation of Frederico7 y Los Primes band members with percussionist Rey Arteaga, began their first few beats, the room was swept into a journey of discovery. First, the dancers cycled around each other. The four conveyed wariness with every expression. Even when they came together to create still tableaux, living statues of shelter and progressions, the undercurrent of uncertainty permeated their forms.

(l to r): Anuradha Naimpally, Jun “Sunny” Shen, Ciceley Fullylove, and Luis Ordaz Gutiérrez (Courtesy of Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre)

From that first scrambling piece, it separated to showcase each specialty. Naimpally, Gutiérrez, Shen, and Fullylove each got a number to express their ideas about what drew humanity together and what makes them distinct. These threads connected with interstitial movements where the dance company grew, taking what they just witnessed and integrating it into their dances. Each piece told a realized story with a completely unique style. Together it was a sparkling celebration of the joys and hopes in humanity.

Naimpally’s section had a voiceover describing Indian traditions, giving credence to earthly elements and the power of generations. Accompanied by her daughter, Purna Bajekal, Naimpally married percussive footwork with precise lines, fluttering hands moving in hypnotic currents. This morphed into Fullylove’s melting pot of joy. Hers was an explosion of ballroom and breakdance, West Coast swing and cha-cha and moments that defied any label except pure pleasure in motion. She showcased rhythm with Kelsey Oliver, and together their infectious beat took over, coupled with neon-bright drums and synths that demanded grooving.

Anuradha Naimpally (right) with her daughter, Purna Bajekal (Courtesy of Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre)

From there, Shen’s dance took on a somber but beautiful note, presenting a balletic tale that smacked of ancestral progression. He and Siyan Li moved smoothly around an ornate wooden chair, a searching performance that was somehow heartbreaking. Their movements were strong, stylized, precise motions of eternally pushing forward through pain. The final duet was Gutiérrez. He and partner Irving Maldonado, who entered as a Puckish sprite, an ancestral guardian spurring Gutiérrez onward, were ridiculously expressive with their faces, Maldonado’s encouragement and Gutiérrez’s resignation reaching silent-movie levels of interactions. Theirs was an obvious journey, cyclical and entreating. I’ve never seen anyone full-on sprint in place with the energy of these two dancers. Their efforts left them pouring sweat and left the audience breathless with the progressions.

Courtesy of Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre

An exuberant finale had the entire company call back to portions of the performance. As the company adopted each other’s moves for brief moments, the wary body language from the first number morphed into understanding and love. Truly, Ariel and company proved that through dance, at least, a vibrant tapestry can be made of the individual, bright threads of human experience.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle