Posted by: strugglesome | September 17, 2010

All She Wants To Do Is Dance: Girls Gone Wild in Keila Cordova Dances As Big As The World

It amazes me that there are still people out there for whom dance conjures up associations of tutus and/or high school gymnasiums. Certainly both of those things are still possible (and maybe at the same time, depending on your school’s dress code), but there is so much more out there in terms of dance and its many incarnations. An excellent example of this was displayed to me this past weekend at Keila Cordova DancesAs Big As The World, where dance was not delicate and balletic, nor was it the frenzied gyrations of a pre-pubescent person (thank goodness), but a visually compelling often surprising examination of events.

A compilation of four distinct pieces, all choreographed by Keila Cordova, each dance had its distinct themes, while featuring clear marks of Cordova’s style. Movements that begin as causal gestures evolve into deliberate dance moves, granted meaning by the act of repetition. Cordova’s choreography explores the awkwardness of the body, the way that awkwardness becomes grace, the way a spasm becomes beautiful. Bodies bent at angles, moving slowly then quickly, jerking under the weight of an invisible burden, Cordova’s dancers, Kate Abernethy, Kathy Kerner, Cristin Van Horn, Monica Cameron and Zoe Farmingdale move their way through four self-contained creations.

The first, youngest, and probably the weakest of the pieces, is Little Pools, a piece combining movement and direct audience address as Abernethy moves gently as a background to murmured stories told by Kerner and Van Horn. While possessing beautiful moments, this doesn’t feel as polished as the three other pieces, and the vocal aspect adds a sense of disunity that is confusing rather than interesting.  It simply doesn’t feel finished as a dance piece, there are ideas there but I can’t seem them moving around in the flesh.

In Rem (a voluptuous and almost violent look at the space between sleeping and waking), uses the entire group of dancers, and achieves a cacophony of movement that is a beautiful assault on the senses. The dancers convulse and laze, run and stop, creating a surreal vocabulary of moment in an effort to represent the gray space that lives between the conscious and the unconscious. The final moments of the piece are especially effective, the image of each dancer spasming on the floor is a heady one, not soon forgotten. Farmingdale is especially expressive, and her interpretations of the choreography can’t help but catch the audience’s eyes. This piece, in contrast to it’s predecessor, feels complete and whole, mysterious and compelling as a full study on an idea; it stands alone as a strong performance.

Chavela, a solo performed by Kate Abernethy (the delicate workhorse of the show, Abernethy is featured in every dance piece and her flawless execution of Cordova’s choreography explains why), is a lilting feverish torment of a piece. Abernethy’s form dips and strains against the music by Chavela Vargas, and despite a weak costume design by Amy Freeman, her body becomes a free thing, a joy to watch in motion as it moves alone around the space.

The final piece, As Big As The World, rivals In Rem as the strongest of the four interludes. Abernethy, Van Horn, Kerner and Farmingdale are engaged in a particularly violent sort of dinner party, filled with tension, longing, hording of silverware and a delicious destruction of order. Moving like slim resentful chess pieces, circling each other, advancing, retreating, staying entirely distant, getting close, each of the four dancers truly hits her stride in the finale. There are mysteries in this piece, there are hidden things being moved around and danced around and it’s exciting and tense and leaves you wanting more. Moving as four dancers individual and as an ensemble  simultaneously they become a joy to watch, even when they fight, even when they are all completely still. It’s moments like this in which tutus and school dances never even enter your mind.

Keila Cordova Dances has finished their run in this year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival, but you can find out more about her work and upcoming performances you can go here.

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