Dallas — “Not all who wander are lost.”
This oft-quoted line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring rings true regardless of time and place, and Pedestrian Dance Movement’s second season offering Vagabond presented at Bishop Lynch High School explores the human desire to find one’s place in the world. Directed by Liz Collinsworth, the company seeks to find its place in the North Texas dance scene as a place where audiences can connect to the stories, the dancers, and the music through contemporary dance.
A reflective voice opens the show citing varying definitions of vagabond, using words such as “wanderer” and “without a home.” Guitar strains float in as four dancers representing the main characters enter the stage from the audience and dance on the apron, setting the stage for a very personal performance. Most of the dances in the first act follow the their narratives. Although each is in a different situation, the end result is the same. A feeling of restlessness and wanderlust drives them all to search out new places, and they allow themselves to be changed throughout the journey.
Emily Scown plays the role of The Relationship, and her backstory stems from a fear of opening up and hiding yourself from someone. Giovanni Allen (The Businessman) yearns to break free from the tedium of the corporate world, while Hailey Harding as The Traveler discovers nothing holding her back from moving on. Always feeling a little different from her family, The Black Sheep (Haley Trevino) feels to need to forge her own path.
And so the four take off, suitcases in hand, to explore the world around them. It’s a path that leads through uncertainty, freedom, and joy, but in the end, it takes them home.
The show is a mixed bag, and the various elements have positive and negative aspects. The amount of choreography is quite admirable, as well as the thought put into combining narration, music, and movement for each scene. Contemporary vocabulary in general tends to be audience-friendly, and the creators capitalize on that accessibility. However, one of the exciting facets of the genre—the physicality and diversity of movement planes—loses its thrill due to repetition and the sheer volume of choreography. It’s too much of a good thing.
A few vignettes are quite exquisite. Robotic gestural phrases performed in impressive synchronization display the banality of a corporate job, as Allen attempts to break away. Trevino’s segments of illustrating her plight and returning home seem to exemplify the mission of the company more than any others. She’s powerful and real, and the choreography has the greatest range of technical maneuvers, stillness, and pedestrian qualities. A remarkable men’s trio with Allen, Clery Moss and Jalquan Laurencin has the dancers defying gravity with a quiet force.
Dancers overall prove to be lovely movers and competent technicians. Many of them, though, need to continue developing that emotional range which sets contemporary dancers apart.
The music spans fifteen different artists, but all fall under the indie acoustic genre. It’s a soothing, sensitive sound and somewhat of a logical choice, since contemporary dance fits so well with it. But with 21 songs having mostly the same combination of Ed Sheeran-style vocals and acoustic guitar, the sound of the production is somewhat flat. Also, a couple of songs had adult language, which didn’t sit well with some of the parents in the audience, since children of all ages were in attendance.
Regardless of the weak points in the production, they’re a welcome addition to the community, and I look forward to seeing future shows. This show could use improvement, but it was well received by the audience and has a likeable quality that will likely attract the general public in the future. Like most new companies, they have some growing to in terms of the dancers and choreographic structure, but overall, they’re off to a good start.