Dance review: Chaddick Dance Theater’s “In the Company of…”

 (This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

The stark white walls of Chaddick Dance Theater’s new First Street Studio on E. Cesar Chavez Street provided an ideal backdrop for the two pieces comprising “In the Company of…” In each, the dancers smacked into, leaned against and slid down these walls. The compelling detail of their movement was easily absorbable in the intimate, informal performance space.RMPD0488

In the evening’s first work, “Crossroads” (choreographed by Tulsa-based Bonnie Hossack), four dancers conveyed the ups and downs of everyday life. Set to Arvo Pärt’s quietly thrilling “Fratres for Strings and Percussion,” the dancers in turn exuded calm and frenetic energy. Micro hand gestures indicated agitation; then, they threw themselves from one side of the room to the other, collapsing into literal balls of anxiety. The audience sat so close as to feel the wind-wake of the dancers as they rushed past.

After each stormy session, serenity overcame them. One of the most interesting moments was when dancers Devon Adams, Katie Mae Herbert, Cameron Oefinger and Erica Stivison smacked up against the back wall, then oozed down to the floor. They walked their feet along the wall before pushing off to slide downstage on their backs, all in unison. Then they picked themselves back up, only to start the cycle again.

The next piece, Artistic Director Cheryl Chaddick’s “Vicissitudes of the Heart,” was aptly titled. Set to an original score by Graham Reynolds, the work was divided into sections that either documented four phases of a single relationship — “Discovering,” “Passion,” “Conflict & Confusion,” “Love & Gratitude” — or four different relationships, depending on how you chose to look at it.

Dressed in shades of pink, purple and gray, each of the four couples brought a different dimension to the humanity of relationships. In “Discovering,” Herbert and Peter Gonzalez were full of anticipation as they tested each other’s likes and dislikes, feeling each other out. Stivison and Oefinger ran at each other with full energy in “Passion,” completing a series of lifts and floor rolls that emphasized embrace.

Perhaps the most emotionally gripping was Adams and Nathan Brumbaugh’s performance in “Conflict & Confusion.” Adams fluctuated between rage and hysteria, alternately shoving Brumbaugh and shaking alone. Brumbaugh maintained an expression of sad disbelief, as though asking himself, “What’s the point?”

The final phase, “Love & Gratitude,” reminded us of the point. In one moment, dancer Christine Wong walked blindly backwards with her arm stretched back, hand searching for a partner’s loving clasp.

When she found Cody Edwards, we breathed a sigh of relief.

“In the Company Of” continues through Feb. 28.

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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