Review: Nuances Out Loud: Unseen in the Light, Heard in Silence | Muscle Memory Dance Theatre | LIFE in Deep Ellum

Whisper to a Scream

Muscle Memory Dance Theatre returned with a program called Nuances Out Loud: Unseen in Light, Heard in Silence, at LIFE in Deep Ellum.

published Monday, March 23, 2020

Photo: Chris Baylor Photography
Muscle Memory Dance Theatre

Dallas — Surprises abounded in Muscle Memory Dance Theatre’s (M2DT) first full-length, mixed-repertory production in years. Known for their edgy take on contemporary modern dance and unique approaches to the performative process, M2DT’s Nuances Out Loud: Unseen in Light, Heard in Silence, performed Feb. 22 at LIFE in Deep Ellum, exhibited a diverse collection of movement languages. Over the years, the company has seen many changes in choreographers and performers alike, providing a recognizable aesthetic that continues to develop as they do.

To kick off the show, Who are You, and Who am I introduced themes of reflection, curiosity, and self-discovery in Anna Kay Brooks’ dance film. These shaking heads and wiggling fingers transitioned from the projection into the real-time spirals of the dancers onstage. Loaded with eye-catching motifs like a gentle cupping of the chin and sharp releases into the floor, the choreography felt slightly busy when paired with the almost forgotten video opening.

As the familiar tune “Addicted to Love” echoed through the room, Brooks took on the role of soloist in For You to Hold. Wearing a clingy black dress and heels, she swayed her hips timidly, walking in runway patterns. There was something unsettling about her demeanor—a sort of discomfort that created a visual dissonance to the lighthearted song. Removing the heels and settling into the pillows and books set up at the front of the stage, Brooks appeared to free herself from the restraints of her previous experience. Moving through more natural stretches, and yoga-like poses, she eventually gained more confidence — taking her into off-balance holds and reaching fingers. Through three solos, Artistic Director and choreographer Lesley Snelson created an intimate glimpse into moments of growth and discovery in this character’s life. At the conclusion of the last solo, I found myself again feeling cluttered by the flood of themes, props, and concepts.

Kiera Amison’s first work, /ə’dikSH(ə)n/, lured the audience into a darker place — following dancers as they walked in isolated pathways with downcast focus. Repetitive hand gestures and vibratory burst spontaneously interrupted unison phrases, illustrating the cyclical yet unexpected nature of addiction in all its forms.

Snelson’s Unveil Me took the cake for most captivating piece of the afternoon. Four women in different blush dresses halted in hieroglyphic poses — commanding attention and exuding power. Once the music began, the heavy beat contrasted their sultry hip movements, creating a luscious, rich tone. In ways that previous pieces lacked, each performer held a strong connection to one another through their use of cohesive focus and energy. Uplifted palms and stretchy, growing reaches balanced their furious runs and angular elbows. Between the striking, empowered choreography and vehement dedication of the dancers, it was difficult to watch the work come to an end.

Post-intermission, Amison presented her call-and-response duet Left I Stand, Right I Yield. Responsive partner-work sent the pair into an exploratory investigation of positive and negative spaces — touching, reacting, and manipulating from the lower platform onto the main stage.

In the only performance incorporating live music, Echo & Circumstance illustrated how lovely it can be when music and movement work in harmony together. Guest choreographer Christie Bondade utilized soft lifts, tranquil rolls, and expansive arm patterns on her trio, cultivating a stunning, serene environment. Brittany Padilla’s haunting vocalizations and progressive percussion cast a dreamy spell upon the space — heightening the paradoxical energy channeling through the dancers. An intense gentleness served as the foundation for their partnering and also clarified their oozing transitions.

With a drastic shift, Open Circuit pulled away from the softer tones of the show — sending performers into furious jumps and urgent spins with flying arms. Clad in brightly colored mismatched tops and airy bottoms, the quintet maintained a manic energy in their shuffling formations — breaking apart and coming together. A much-needed change in dynamic, Anna Wueller Diaz’s work left both dancers and viewers exhausted in its finish.

Closing the show with a sprinkle of the avant-garde, a(mend)ing featured a fascinating Diaz, an arrangement of words about equality (with a special blurb from Ruth Bader Ginsberg), and a stage encircled with eggs. Yes, real eggs. Created as a collaborative work between Snelson and Diaz, the piece centered on the soloists’ choices to both avoid stepping on eggshells and intentionally fall, squish, and crush them with various body parts. As egg yolk splattered in every direction, this peculiar concept opened the work up to quirky gestures, messy floorwork, and chaotic spatial patterns. Despite being on the more ambiguous side, there were clear themes of women’s rights, equality, unapologetic choices, and determination — remaining pointedly relevant even after over 20 years of reconstructions. Thanks For Reading

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Whisper to a Scream
Muscle Memory Dance Theatre returned with a program called Nuances Out Loud: Unseen in Light, Heard in Silence, at LIFE in Deep Ellum.
by Emily Sese

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