Denton — On Saturday night the Jordan Fuchs Company performed Ground at the Texas Woman’s University Dance Studio Theater in Denton. The well-curated show could’ve easily been transferred from the humble black box theater they performed in to a proscenium theater due to the program’s sophistication and thoughtfulness.
The show opened with Trace. The piece was created out of an improvisational study on how bodies react when they come into contact with another force.
Dancer Melissa Sanderson kneels behind Whitney Geldon and studies how her fingers, wrist, and elbow joints move to the echoing of sonar sounds. Geldon surrenders her full weight into Sanderson and together they melt into the floor with their limbs lying heavy in a starfish position.
The dancers’ exploration of the mechanics of their bodies slightly resembled the work of the late José Limón, the choreographer who was fascinated by the dichotomy of gravity working against dancers and vise versa. However unlike Limón’s technique, artistic director Jordan Fuchs’ choreography wasn’t pedestrian and ended with crispness. Similar to a Rubik’s Snake puzzle, Trace would morph from shape to shape. The dancers would untangle themselves from bearing each other’s weight to then masterfully articulating every muscle and bone into a pointed foot. The piece felt improvised because the dancers seemed to move about the stage as they pleased.
The duet exits the stage and a screen scrolls down in silence. The credits read, “Ground” and the focus is on two sets of feet. Terrible screeching music plays and the camera starts to wobble side to side. One set of feet is lifted up and out of the frame then the body is dropped with a sickening thud. The camera cuts away for a split second to another couple improvising as they partner each other. Again the same clip of the two pairs of feet is shown. For seven minutes the film switches back and forth between a couple in full frame and two sets of feet.
Although the concept of showing a dance film was an excellent idea, the content of the film was nauseating. The choice to focus the dancers’ feet with an unsteady camera and have it accompanied by forlorn music made the artistic pursuit feel more like footage of a kidnapping.
It wasn’t until the third piece of the program, Torison, that Fuchs’ brilliance was fully realized.
Fog encased the black box theater. A dancer’s silhouette appears as she juts out her arm to the side, grabs a handful of fog, and pulls herself onto stage to teeter on one leg. Dancer Michelle Beard commands the space in a bright yellow ruffle top. She pulls back a hip or an elbow only to release and unwind the tension. Her body swings in the opposite direction and buckles at the sudden momentum. Beard regains control each time and takes another step downstage.
Melissa Sanderson and Whitney Geldon appear on either side of Beard wearing blue and red tops. The primary colored trio interweaves to create intricate floor patterns. Sanderson moves over to Beard, presses a hand to her right hip, and manipulates Beard into a twisted position. As the piece continues each dancer alternates between the roles of the confrontational controller, the submissive puppet, or the indifferent onlooker. The momentum builds until the dancers are twisting and creating torque as one unit.
As compared to the opening piece, Torsion had distinct story and movement structures that were gratifying to watch. Fuchs masterfully layered his visceral, acrobatic choreography, clean partnering, and purposeful movement patterns. At moments there were undertones of Martha Graham’s technique, the iconic dancer and choreographer who incorporated the idea of torque into her dance vocabulary. Fuchs’ background as a dance specialist for the Jerome Robbins Moving Image Archive of the Dance Division for the New York Public Library clearly has informed his movement as he navigates through the past, present, and future of dance movements.
Torsion was a refreshing original.