Leave it to modern dance to remind us that dancers are human. Even though they bend their bodies out of shape, run it through the wringer in the course of a performance, and keep crawling back for more, dancers are real. While modern and contemporary choreographers across the decades have interpreted that many ways, audiences attending "The Collective" presented by Simple Sparrow Dance Company at the Black Box Theater inside the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville got to experience a very accessible version of the human side of dance.
The opening work, Pop Symphony (choreographed by Jessie Rosenberger), sets the tone for the evening. String quartet variations of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" and Britney Spears' "Toxic" provide the backdrop for a jazzy contemporary work. Black hats, suspenders, white shirts and black skirts complete the pop picture which includes a few Jackson movement references. Although precision and timing are fuzzy in a few areas, it's a cute opening to the show.
With The Adventure Begins, choreographer Rosenberger and fellow dancer Elise Wendorf prove that growing a baby is no reason to stop dancing—or performing. The two expectant mothers dance a mostly unison duet interpreting the lyrics with their unborn ones in tow by default. A few gestures to the abdomen remind the audience what this piece is about. Real? Yes, pregnant people dance too. Some dancers with child try to dance and fit into costumes normally before their changing shapes prohibit it. These two embrace it.
The next work is a bit of a current cliché in contemporary dance but could be quite enjoyable depending on how one feels about the song "Sail" by Awolnation. Simple Sparrow changes things up a bit by bringing in a string variation instead of the original rock version. Two tables and benches get pushed around by dancers clad in green and black. A hurried sense of immediacy leaps at the audience as the dancers race towards those in the front row. A sense of struggle and quiet angst permeate the traditional leaps and turns juxtaposed between rolls to and around the floor. Much of the movement seems a bit placed yet unstable. The meaning is a bit unclear as well. Does the movement go with the lyrics or point to something entirely different?
Taking another page from the modern alternative music book is Macy Loucks' Vitality, a powerful and slightly angry work appropriately set to Florence and the Machine. Typical yet daring jazz movements with great precision combine with a clean group synergy to create an intriguing dynamic. The powerfully strong lines and synchronization create an almost flawless picture which is interestingly interrupted by the sound of the dancers hitting the floor. Yes, they are bound by gravity like the rest of us.
Are they bound by the same rules of time and space? But We'll Stay, a dizzying tap piece with choreographer Heather Gall and Christian Bergin, possibly proves otherwise. They demonstrate one of the great things about watching tap dancers. Their feet move so fast that you don't quite see them make all of the sounds you hear. As their lightning-quick taps rattled the floor, the duo never lost energy, even after an impressive series of toe stands. But in a modern dance concert, one has to ask, was it right for the show? Who cares? It was fun to watch.
A red-clad Loucks shows a more traditional lyrical side with Before You Go, which is proceeded by the most abstract, thought-provoking piece of the evening, la mer: la mort. Dressed in cut-off vintage lace dresses for the ladies and khaki and white for the male, they maneuver through bitter, frustrated movements as their hands occasionally move up the neck, like they're being choked or hung.
Advice, like youth, is wasted on the young… closes out the evening on a whimsical note. Set to "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen," an unlikely Baz Luhrman hit from the late 1990s, the 14 dancers move about the intimate stage with a youthful zeal. The text in the song is based on a newspaper article, which was erroneously attributed to a Kurt Vonnegut commencement speech and contains (as hinted by the title of the dance) advice to young people entering a new stage of life. The choreography sometimes interprets lyrics literally, but in a fun, unique way. Joyful faces, a plethora of movement, and colorful costumes leave the audience uplifted. The realness of this piece comes with rush of wind, as the dancers run just inches away from the closest viewer. Exciting moments pop up here and there, especially when Bergin throws Whitney Hart into the air.
Overall, it's an enjoyable performance. Simple Sparrow adds a nice balance to the local modern/contemporary scene. While their works aren't necessary deep or heavily thought-provoking, they show us that with the right choreography and performers, dance is a joy to watch.