The Set-Up: By now Amy Llanes and her Rednerrus Feil Dance Company are no longer the new dance kids on the block, but November 1 and 2 marked a highpoint in the troupe's history. RFDC presented Into-Me-See, its first full-length dance concert, and on Saturday they performed to a full house at The Barn.
The Execution: Llanes' choreography is characterized by its exploration of the personal. The dances of Into-Me-See investigate the loss of innocence, female body image in the face of cancer, and the cues - or miscues - of body language and verbal communication. Dance as autobiography is risky business, especially since autobiography as autobiography rarely reveals truths other than the obvious. But Llanes creates in broad strokes, which makes her dances watchable to audience members who operate outside of the specificities of her content.
I enjoyed much of Goodbye, Grace, a dance that sees its dancers move in the shadow-scape of six clamp lights. Llanes' odd, yet, fascinating phrases are composed of common gestures - twining hair through fingers, rubbing arms and legs, hiding faces with hands - and larger dance skills for movement that is just as appealing in unison as it is solo. The dance is pretty, child-like at times, and carries a whimsical quality to it even though it is lined with an impending sense of danger. The final moment, in which a dancer's eyes are opened and her figure undressed, a clear image referencing the loss of innocence, is a bit too literal to be satisfying, and perhaps too harsh for such a lovely dance. I wanted Goodbye, Grace to end as it started, with one dancer fading into the dark just as the first dancer was born from it.
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ass.u.me, a duet between Jesus Acosta and Danielle Gonzaba, was a highlight. Fine dancing aside, I appreciate Llanes' commentary of contemporary relationships. They're hard, for sure, a point that is made when the dancers are in unison. Even when they are working together, there is mad tension building. In ass.u.me, both parties are the aggressor, and through their powerful dance and intense gazes, they show that aggression can be manifest in more harmful ways than simply the physical.
The dance on the program that perhaps most exemplified the idea of intimacy was not a new work. M2, an excerpt from Llanes' thesis work at Sam Houston State University, is a solo that sees a woman confront her body in a mirror along with the cancer that is wreaking havoc on it. The woman is danced by Llanes herself; she performs with such sincerity and moves with such confidence that it's hard not to look away despite the piece's somber subject matter. The projection in the mirror sheds her false hair, removes the padding in her bra. Llanes dances the woman's grief, her despair, but also her hope for a quiet, yet, moving solo performance. I would have been glad to see much more of this excerpt, and more of Llanes for that matter.
The program also included two group pieces of the comedic variety. Just Sayn observes the differences in body language between animated people and their more subdued counterparts while Word of Mouth pokes fun of the awkward moments in verbal conversation. There are plenty of fun moments, but both are jokes that take too long to get to their punch lines. Word of Mouth especially could have used more the wild chatter and comedic timing of its final laugh-out-loud moment.
The Verdict: The dances piece of Into-Me-See are interesting in their content and construction. I admire how Llanes weaves the banal movements of daily existence into dancerly choreography that meditates on the themes that create that very existence. However, some dances, or more specifically, some moments within certain dances, are more compelling than others. Such is the nature of the intimate.