Lewisville — Back for its second year, Snow, by imPULSE dance project, created an intimate space in the already intimate Recital Hall at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville. For two nights only, December 19 and 20 (I attended Saturday), the Arlington-based dance company set out to create a wintery event that puts a twist on your expected holiday dance productions.
Snow, a 40-minute performance, consisted of three larger ensemble works, choreographed by Artistic Director Anastasia Waters, and company members Kristin Daniels and Krista Langford, and four solos, choreographed by Ms. Waters and performed by Charis Campbell.
We were first greeted by Campbell, who portrayed a youthful spirit trying to ward off the somberness and harshness of winter that came with Daniels’ “HUMAN kind.” Through a series of duets that dissolved into solos, the movement alternated between being aggressive and sharp, to being fluid and soft, and explored traditionally classified post-modern phrases. The dancers, Amanda Adams, Rachael Clark, Langford, and Waters, were fully present and invested in the work, and performed with eagle-eye precision. A quality that helped to move Daniels’ choreography through the space’s four corners, but the movement never fully activated the audience. The dancers came very close to them, nearly brushing their faces with their sweeping battements and out-reaching arms, but never addressed them.
“Homespun Wonders,” choreographed by Langford, and danced by Campbell, Clark, Michelle Lawyer, Nanci Mendoza (disclosure: Mendoza is also a company member with DGDG: the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group), and Jackie Millan, presented the first shift in emotional performance. Here, the energy picked up, as the movement represented a youthful exploration of friendship and joy. But the lighting remained the same cool blue as the first half of the show. This maintenance of such a consistent lighting choice gave each work the same sense of being: the audience was automatically lulled into a melancholic state. A state difficult to be lifted even by Langford’s playful choreography that was full of breathy movements, quick jumps, stylized lifts, and quirky foot patterns, or by the smiling faces of her dancers.
It was not until the third solo that the lighting finally changed—from blue to purple. Now, the faces of the dancers were visible, the lines of their bodies no longer bathed in a disguising blue light. Now, Ms. Waters’ choreography for Campbell could be clearly seen, and it was the most well defined and cleanly performed of the evening. Campbell’s technique and awareness of her body shone through, as did her emotional portrayal of her character’s arc.
“In the Midst,” also choreographed by Waters, included almost the entire ensemble and white rose petals (or snow). The piece began with the dancers dropping rose petals in front of a fan set in one of the corners of the dance space to bathe Campbell in a cascade of white. This was the first moment that the space became activated by the dancers as they gathered the rose petals up and presented them to the audience, gifting them with “snow” and involving them in the performance. But it all came too late in the show, and seemed rather out of place, since for about 35 minutes prior, the audience was just a passive participant. It was almost a shock to the body to now be asked to hold something for the dancers and to lift their glow sticks up to illuminate the space.
But it’s an issue that can be alleviated through a reexamination of how this production is presented. Since the stage space was created to be in the round and to create an immersive experience for the audience, the audience would benefit from being scattered throughout the space, instead of being set up in neat rows one behind another. At this presentation, the audience was sat on the same level, so if you were in the second or third row, your viewing experience was obstructed. The low sound levels of the music also hindered the immersive environment, as did the dark lighting used for almost half of the show.
Through a bit of editing, Snow, if it returns in 2016, has the potential to become a viable alternative to the traditional Nutcrackers and other holiday dance offerings, if the work is pushed past its current boundaries.
» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG: the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears the last Sunday of the month on TheaterJones.com.