Friday night in Overture Center's Promenade Hall, the Kanopy Dance Company program 360 provided real inspiration: a revelatory piece and two compelling performances from former Martha Graham Company dancers.
The night opened with Kanopy director Lisa Thurrell's "The Maw," which I saw and enjoyed last spring. This time Heidi Krause, whose technique I've admired before, really came into her own as she danced with new confidence and conviction.
In "The Maw," inspired by medieval mystery plays, Juan Carlos Díaz Vélez performed a savage solo to Alan Ginsberg's Howl. As Ginsberg spoke of the "nightmare of Moloch ... whose fingers are ten armies ... whose ear is a smoking tomb," Vélez clawed at himself in agony and disgust, suddenly perching on a platform like a crazed Gollum.
When the beautiful angels Kerry Parker (she of the sky high extensions) and Krause appeared, they were soon stripped nearly bare. In the dark they quickly slipped into fabric tubes -- actually elegant and simple dresses -- while the red of Vélez's robe gleamed in a halo of white light from above. At first their dancing with Vélez was about repulsion and attraction. By the end, they had joined him completely.
"Que Color Tiene El Amor," choreographed by Ricardo Flores for guest artist Martin Løfsnes' 360 Dance Company, was literally a showstopper. Thoughtful and powerful, it elicited a mini standing ovation and made me remember why I came to like dance in the first place.
Items strewn around the stage included a grapefruit half, a white shirt dangling from above and two small white tables. These served as perches for two excellent dancers: Løfsnes himself, all long, muscular limbs and elegant facial features; and Alessandra Prosperi a petite powerhouse bringing both quiet stillness and ferocious skills.
Løfsnes surprised us by shining a flashlight into his mouth, hopping onto the tables, then unspooling those never-ending arms and legs. Prosperi approached the audience with careful steps as she serenely twirled a large umbrella. Coyly sitting on the floor in her mini dress, she looked like a 1940s movie star poolside. She suddenly spread her legs, and her hand gently traveled down her leg like a skittering spider.
Løfsnes appeared later with safety goggles on, and the two explore each other on the small end tables. He pulled her lip down and she made quick and busy hand gestures around her face. The lights went out for a moment, and then she was miraculously dangling from his body. A shower of tiny pellets rained down on Prosperi, and when the dancers began a sweeping movement section together, the little beads sprayed in an arch from her hair.
The two disrobed; she carefully changed into the white shirt while he stripped to a nude dance belt. As they came together for a final, fraught embrace, he squeezed a grapefruit on her chest, smearing it in as the pulp dribbled down. The two bit into the fruit, their sexy mouths lit by the small flashlight.
I worry that I have made this beautiful work sound like a series of tricks and gimmicks. That wasn't the case. The props and effects punctuated and enhanced the gorgeous dancing. Løfsnes and Prosperi have impressive resumes, even beyond their many years with Martha Graham Dance Company, and share both chemistry and a command of the art.
"Que Color Tiene El Amor" was a hard act to follow, and Løfsnes' work created for Kanopy, "What Was Still Is" would probably have fared better placed earlier on the program. It began with some blandly pretty dancing, but got more interesting when Vélez performed a solo that showcased his effortless jumps and precise technique.
He was then surrounded by the group of dancers, their faces now distorted by masks. They pulled at their mouths and eyes. The group picked up Vélez, absorbing him. Later, when the masks were removed, Vélez sifted through the pile of them.
The dancers often repeated one particularly attractive movement, their arms swinging together in front of their bodies, the insides of their wrists touching as if in invisible handcuffs. Amy Panganiban's costumes of muted grays, blacks and whites were good in theory, but some of the short, empire dresses for the ladies made them appear stocky. They aren't.
It's clear that the fine dancing from Løfsnes and Prosperi elevated the performances of the Kanopy dancers. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who was inspired by "Que Color Tiene El Amor."