Dawson Dance attracts an enthusiastic audience who whoop and cheer in appreciation of the eight attractive men and women who are his company. Dawson’s notes for the program “les verities” (the truths), announce that
dawnsondancesf aims” to break down the barriers placed on classical ballet, bringing to light the strength and beauty that artists possess within themselves.” As such, Gregory Dawson is not listed as choreographer.
It is not clear, but it appears that some of the work involves collaboration or invention by the dancers themselves.
Isaiah Bindel is the primary soloist. He and the company start the show with “Out of the Cave,” a piece that dresses the dancers with fascinating head pieces and a range of movement that concentrates on floor bound activity, creeping, crawling and rolling. There is a tribal overtone that is evoked and that continues in “The Crossing” and “Passage,” the next works. This tone is followed by a shift in energy and music score, as male dancers (in trunks and bare chests) dominate the stage for “Piano in the Field,” “The Groove,” and then full company works “Shaken by the Beat,” and “The Reveal.”
The music, composed by Ron Kurti and played by a group called “Classical Revolution” consists of instrumentalist Richard Howell, saxophonist, and Federico Strand Ramirez, cello. The group also uses electronic sound.
All the accompaniment, particularly Howell’s saxophone is wonderfully played and provides fine artistic support for the dance.
After intermission, graced by an upstage solo by Frankie Lee Peterson, the program continued. The girls don toe shoes and ‘pas de deux’ selections permeate some of the next numbers. Although there are occasional upstage crosses by the company wearing the masks and cloth used earlier in the show, there no further use of this costuming. The lighting (by Jack Beutler) is very dark throughout. It makes all of the upstage activity very difficult to see and therefore integrate the images into the main proceedings.
The primary problem, for this reviewer, is that the movement is endlessly repetitious; the rhythms for the dancers remain the same (mostly slow and at the same tempi) although the music rhythms change. Also, the groups, except when the ‘pas de deux’ occur, tend to move in total ensemble. There is no contrast or counterpoint in spatial design or group movement.
When the women are in toe shoes and demonstrate the extensions, arabesques, developés, and other standard gestures of the ballet, it feels very odd and out of style that they are partnered by men who seem to have no role but to support them. The men disappear behind the complexity and technical demands of the ballerina. Dawson seems to want to challenge the classical ballet vocabulary. Yet he uses the most standard form audiences image as ballet, the female acrobat partnered by a man whose value is to provide balance. Also, throughout the performance the dancers seem to keep focus down; therefore limiting contact and projection to the audience.
The company is made up of extraordinarily skilled dancers whose work becomes almost gymnastic in execution. They are wonderful to watch. Now if the choreography would expand and be varied in expression, dawsondancesf would achieve the goals the director has set forth.
Company members are: Ilaria Guerra, Isaiah Bindel, DJ Duncan, Jordan Drew, Madison Otto, Cameron Labater, Erik Denono and Frankie Lee Peterson.
Joanna G. Harris