The Setup: Intrepid, Psophonia Dance Company's spring show performed this past weekend on June 6 and 7 at City Dance Studio, is an appropriate title for this endeavor. The company usually performs feature-length entirely choreographed by artistic director Sophia Torres, but for their latest concert, the dancers took on the challenge of presenting three works, by three different dance artists. In addition to new work by Torres, the program included guest choreographers Leslie Scates and Estela Tejeda.
The Execution: Tejeda's Edge of My Dreams was a pretty, carefully constructed dance that opened the show in a safe, unthreatening manner. Dressed in flowing white, the dancers engaged in what felt like a purely academic exercise. Starting in a diagonal line, the nine dancers maneuvered a series of canons, duet, and solo work. There were some lovely moments, most notably the ripple effects generated by the ensemble, and the movement was clean and precise, but I couldn't help but think that the dance overall was a bit too tidy for the subject matter it was supposed to explore. I think of dreams as messy, ephemeral, and oftentimes confusing states of consciousness. Dreams, however, is grounded in order, clean lines, and the physical. A little more spontaneity, or downright disorderliness, might have made for a more dreamlike quality.
Leslie Scates' i came in like a... was funny, exciting, and completely unexpected, partly because the dance was created in real time. As Scates explained, the beginning and end of the choreography was set, but the middle portion was going to be danced through a structured improvisation technique which would result in a different work each night. I would wager that the opening segment, danced to OOIOO's "UMO," was the most satisfying bit of the whole program. The seven bodies broke, swiveled, and jerked into doll-like contortions, and then the group split into interesting busts of movement, some of which were static and some moved through space. Costumed in colorful casualwear, the dance felt light and joyful, yet, substantial and satisfying.
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The distinguishing feature of Torres' best work is her smart and clever use of props. She doesn't just use props to fill the stage; rather, her objects are integrated into the choreography and shape the movement of the dance. The same is true of the brief cases and travel bags and valises in The Way Station, an often lovely dance that examines the emotional terrain covered in traveling from point A to point B. The dancers moved across the floor with their bags in tow, the abrupt movement suggestive of the mannerisms and gestures of waiting at a train station, The pedestrian sensibilities work well with the nice music selections, but the dance culminates in a duet and a solo that are not fully fleshed out. The duet uses the props, but I would have liked to have seen more partnering between the two dancers. Kendall Kramer's performance, however, was noteworthy; the clarity of her movement, and her precise understanding of the material she's working with held the audience for entirety of the duet's length. The Verdict: One of the strengths of Psophonia as a company is how committed the dancers are to their work, and the seamless way they partner with one another. Dancing in three distinct styles with three different vocabularies is a tall order, but they performed with fine ability. Edgar Guajardo's lighting design was handsome and solid, but I'm eager to see this company on a proscenium stage again. The work might benefit from wings and more intricate lighting, but I enjoyed watching the dancing, especially the fresh air brought in my Scates' improvisation play.