The Set-Up: On November 2 and 3, CORE Performance Company presented SHIFT at Barnevelder Movement Arts. The dance concert showcased new work from CORE Artistic Director Sue Schroeder, Leslie Scates and Tori Teague. The title of the show is taken from its movement vocabulary, that of moving weight from one part of the body and into another. Shift is also a reference to the addition of new dancers to the company, a changing of the guard of sorts.
The Execution: The three premieres on the program were each thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating, not a weak link in the bunch. The first piece, Sue Schroeder's STILL, is clearly meant to be ironic. The dancers are in a state of continual motion from beginning to end, and stay this way through curiously crafted movement patterns.
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For much of the first half, the dancers simply pedal, the weight shifting from the ball of the foot to the heel and back again. The lighting design provides five interlinked squares on the floor that the dancers move within, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. The dance becomes more dramatic as they move into the floor and out of it with intensity, yet, control. There is something arresting about the human body falling and recovering, as well as watching it react in close proximity to another moving organism.
Speaking of arresting, I was held spellbound by a sequence in Leslie Scates' herd that was comprised solely of gestures, facial expressions and the quiet repositioning of dancers in quadratic formations. The dance is an anthropological study of female behavior, a juxtaposition of woman as cultural construct and woman as organic caregiver. The sequence, with its turning of heads, closing of mouths agape, and palming of foreheads is a revelatory representation of the modern day woman's struggle between the two realms of existence.
Perhaps the most riveting piece of the evening was Lori Teague's I felt my life with both hands. Much of its power is given by Zoe Keating's familiar score, but that's not to say the dance isn't just as potent. The quintet rushes across the stage in beautiful flourishes of kinetic force, each maneuver seamlessly gushing into the next. The body weight of each performer is what is informing the movement here, with gravity dictating the directional changes and the spirals of the body. There is particularly moving partner work between dancers Rose Shields and Joshua Rackliffe. During one moment, Shields grabs hold of Rackliffe's legs, anchoring him to the floor, and he reaches in all directions, arms flailing in what could be any acute emotion. He is indeed feeling life with both hands.
The Verdict: SHIFT is a fascinating exploration of the creative possibilities of improvisation. Each dance is not only visually pleasing to look at, but is organic and has a soul that might have been missing if developed in a more structured choreographic process. The artfulness in CORE's work is not in codified technique, though there is plenty of that to admire; it's in the scooping out and refining of the ethereal mass that is inside everyone, dancer or not.