(This review was written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)
Pushing, pulling, leaning, holding: In local modern dance troupe Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s “Briefs: An Episodic Adventure,” eight dancers explore themes of intersection, dispersion and missed connections. The starkness of the Salvage Vanguard Theater’s empty black-box space, combined with an appropriately minimalistic lighting design by Stephen Pruitt, left us to focus on artistic director Kathy Dunn Hamrick’s choreography, which took audiences through a series of six episodes plus an epilogue.
Each episode began the same way, though not necessarily with the same person: A figure on stage left walked slowly upstage, before curving back to face the audience. Then, others entered the space, dashing left and right, forward and backward.
These darting moments occasionally quieted to slow-motion sequences where possibilities of intersection opened up. As the dancers approached each other, we saw a moment’s potential — but just as we were envisioning the what-ifs, the moment would lapse, and the dancers rushed on. These patterns were punctuated by Jacob Hamrick’s original-score soundtrack, which included ambient noise (the hum of low voices, wind, water) in one of the episodes.
Bodies bumped into each other, hung off each other. One action affected the next; but more often than not, it felt like the dancers themselves weren’t calling the shots. Their marionette-like energy indicated an outside force — a higher power? — was propelling them forward, controlling the outcomes.
This writer’s eye was continually drawn to dancer Mariclaire Gamble, whose long-limbed frame was not only striking, but embraced that distinctive marionette quality without hesitation. She twitched her arms and scurried her legs as though they were being manipulated; her destiny lay before her.
Amongst the missed connections and brief encounters was a longer-held duet between Alyson Dolan and Jack Anthony Dunlap II. The evolution of a relationship played out: Smiles and handholding were eventually replaced with gravity and distance. They went their separate ways.
In the final image of “Briefs,” Gamble walks toward the audience as the light fades, arms stretched outward with upturned palms: The possibilities are endless, she seems to say.
That, and: Expect the unexpected.