Titles aren't much help, but maybe that's the point. Sunday afternoon at Watertower Theatre's Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre and Ghost Town Arts Collective presented "You Will Know When You Are There, a journey in art and modern dance," a title that offered little in the way explanation. Instead, we were teased with images, hints, repetitive movement and props to fuel our imagination.
Yet something was lacking in that respect. Except for a few spurts of energy, the program had a ponderous feel, as though dancers were carrying some heavy weight on this minds.
A different milieu might have helped: "You Will Know" was first performed in the more spacious setting of LIFE in Deep Ellum where the seating was along three sides, and the feeling was casual, as though we were watching an event unravel at its own leisurely pace. In the Studio Theatre we felt hemmed in.
Patchwork fabric edges the floor, and a giant video screen throws off images of a plant changing shape, of streamers, and finally, that of that patchwork fabric. The images seem extraneous and capricious, but don't compete with the movement below.
In Meghan Cardwell-Wilson's Once, six dancers in mustard-colored blousy shorts wander in, gather at one side, meander among themselves, and then break apart. One dancer crawls on hands and feet, followed by others. They drop, lie on one side with arms and one leg up. Are they the plants that the video displays? Or are they some odd animal species? Whatever they are, they are not at rest.
The music is so many beeps and an occasional tune on a piano. Upright, dancers lean to the side, one leg in arabesque, as though finding a new resting place. Sometimes, one dancer leans on the other, or even falls backward for support on a folded body. There is more crawling, more lying down in alert mode, and at last, everyone disappears.
Amy Sleigh's Striving is a little more structured, involving three jars that serve as lanterns, a swing and three dancers in dark blue and green. They treat the lanterns gingerly, like security blankets, and later with a certain hesitation. When they discover a swing, they use it cautiously and gradually with more abandon, as though gaining courage with one small step at a time.
Lesley Snelson's Becoming gives six dancers the chance to break free from confinement (and a larger space would have been welcome), cart wheeling, leaping, running and scrambling backwards—sometimes supporting one another with a sideways lift. For all its freewheeling action, it's an orderly affair. The dancers have been let loose, and they don't seem to know it.
◊ 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.