Fort Worth — After a few minutes of watching a body floundering with legs shooting in all directions, the cynic in me thought: oh no, another ponderous ballet. But after a while, L. Brooke Schlecte’s Washed Ashore began to thaw my icy heart. This was not a drama but a poem.
The first of six works performed Saturday as part of the 23rd Annual AIDS Outreach Center Benefit Concert at the Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre on the Texas Christian University campus, Washed Ashore could be a metaphor for anyone or anything caught in an ocean current, figuratively or literarily. A triangle-shaped structure represents the sea, and to represent the tide, small white balls roll about. For most of the time Erika Record, Katie Griffith, and Ms. Schlecte—in saggy, dullish jeans—flop and slither, toss and turn, never looking up. When one manages to get upright, it’s only for a few seconds. Like flotsam and jetsam, the current is pulling them. At last, in one dramatic gasp, the tide surges (a torrent of white balls comes smashing forward) and the survivors are washed ashore.
Piano music (played live), the darkish setting, and the restless and never-ending surge of sea over human beings made Washed Ashore oddly compelling.
Equally poetic was Elizabeth Gillaspy’s Poema de tres versos, a solo set to the music of Agustin Barrios. Michele Gifford emerges in near darkness holding a flashlight. The flashlight, which she swings back and forth, brings it to her face and aims at empty space, is a voice, and she is the other side of the conversation. All the while she skirts the stage, sometimes with tentative bourrées, at other times with bold leaps, and in one beautiful moment, she tilts backward in a languorous swoon. She moves with feline grace.
The tension builds to an angry climax: she aims the flashlight as far to the side as possible and turns to look the other way. The conversation has ended—badly.
On a happier note, Tammy Jo Baston’s Thematic Repetition features a playful Leah Williams commenting on her action. “Talk to me about those exits,” she says, and disappears. Or “Here’s a variation,” she says, and offers some slightly different maneuvers. There are a lot of starts and stops, disappearances and changes in tempo, all performed in silence except for the sound of her voice. She smiles with delight every time she introduces a new step.
The music of Bruce Brubaker’s “Six Etudes for Piano” suited the sweet innocence of Nicole Browne’s Until then. In short white frocks, Allie Liles and Julia Kamilos share a delicate friendship. Much of the time they keep eye contact, smiling at each other, and then flit off in different directions.
In contrast to the gentle tone of Until then, Joshua L. Peugh’s Critics of the Morning Song runs a gauntlet of mixed emotions. Each of the three different versions of “I’m Always Changing Rainbows” brings out three entirely different moods. In the first rendition, Alex Karigan Farrior and Mr. Peugh scamper side-by-side in a giddy romp when not tentatively touching each other’s faces. In the second, an angry Ms. Farrior berates Mr. Peugh, poking a finger to his nose and keeping it there no matter how hard he tries to break away. In the last section, they push and shove, but when Ms. Farrier tries to crawl away, Mr. Peugh can’t let go. No matter how many times she tries to escape, each time he yanks her back by the foot. Some relationships are doomed from the beginning.
The title of Krista Kee’s System Armed says it all: unrelenting movement to industrial noise. The dancers gave it their all.
The companies represented in the show, which is presented by Chi Tau Epsilon Honor Society, were Waco-based Out on a Limb Dance Company (Washed Ashore), Nymbal new ballet (Poema de tres versos), DanceTCU (Thematic Repetition, Until then and System Armed), and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (Critics of the Morning Song).
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.