Review: Garth Fagan, BIODANCE connect with crowds
06:24 PM, Sep 23, 2013
You know when you hold a yoga pose or plank for the first time (or the first time in a while) and you curse every muscle in your leg or arm that you’re suddenly well too aware of? Well, Garth Fagan Dance members celebrate every single one of those muscles instead. Even a move to the balls of their feet is important.
That’s one thing I was reminded of while watching Garth Fagan Dance rehearsing pieces for their upcoming fall concert, in New York City in November and Rochester in December. The dance company has opened its rehearsals during the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.
Another is how lucky we are to have this company in Rochester. Steve Humphrey, a member from the beginning, when Garth Fagan Dance was Bottom of the Bucket, is 61, yet he was still out there wowing us. Nicolette Depass Ferguson had a child five months ago, but if I hadn’t known, I never would have guessed it.
Fagan, for this fall’s concert, has choreographed a piece dedicated to today’s women, who he says balance homes, families and jobs with grace. He wrote it for Natalie Rogers-Cropper, and gave a wonderful tribute to his dancers that shows why they are so dedicated to him (a closeness that shows in the tightness of their work). Fagan lost his daughter while she was an infant and told the audience that Rogers-Cropper embodied who he hoped his daughter would have become.
The dance, “No Evidence of Failure,” has Rogers-Cropper at the starting gate, but when she takes off, she doesn’t race. Instead, she stops to attend to each detail lovingly and thoroughly, with some fits of frenzy. When she stops, it’s to sleep standing up. He definitely nailed a working woman’s life. It’s not how fast you get things done, but how well you attend to each facet of your life.
Rogers-Cropper, showing her own attention to detail (her footwork was extraordinary), lived up to the task. The piece was so polished, it’s hard to imagine what will emerge after another month of rehearsal.
Norwood “P.J.” Pennewell also has a new piece debuting this fall, and Fagan is right again when he says he thinks it’s Pennewell’s best. The dance, in three movements, takes the audience through the workings of a cotton gin. The music for the piece includes works from two Eastman grads alarm.will.sound and Yo-Yo Ma.
The company’s work is so rich, it can be appreciated in numerous ways. As I watched two movements of Lighthouse/Lightning Rod, a collaboration between Fagan and Wynton Marsalis that premiered last fall, I watched only the dancers’ feet for a few minutes. It became a whole different piece from that perspective.
Again, it was the celebration of every muscle, every movement. Fagan will again open his studios at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The cost is $16.
The opening dance of Anomaly by BIODANCE was interesting, like wandering a lost planet in Star Trek and trying to determine who is friendly. Appropriate for the venue: Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium.
People who attended the first show said it was a “don’t miss,” but using the space behind the planetarium screen didn’t seem to work. And the next part of the dance was interesting, but not moving. I started wondering what all the buzz was about.
Then the mood changed, and the music by Sound ExChange moved to a celestial feeling. Soothing yet abstract projections designed by W. Michelle Harris, associate professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, took over the domed screen, then morphed to the night sky, with the stars in all their glory. The last two Sound ExChange pieces, Valenica by Caroline Shaw and Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvot Part, were hauntingly gorgeous. The dancers, led by Missy Pfohl Smith, came back out with tea lights in their hands for an equally beautiful dance. The combination put our place in the universe in perspective.
I sat there at the end, completely relaxed, not wanting to move. BIODANCE and SoundExchange combined during last year’s Fringe as well, and this Anomaly shows how the partnership has matured. The show ($10) repeats at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. I’d recommend the Friday show; any lingering tension from work will melt away, allowing you to enjoy the rest of the night.