“Impact” is Kristin Damrow’s third evening-length work and a world premiere. It uses Brutalist architecture and design as its inspiration and reactive counterpoint. This design influence is instantly recognizable in the clear-cut set by Alice Malia, whose concrete-like structure suspends from the ceiling and in lighting designer, Allen Willner’s clear cool lighting that designs the stage into sections or announces different sections. “Impact” is an ambitious work, both in length and in the sheer number of its 15 youthful dancers. It has a similar feel to those dystopian works by Canada’s leading choreographer, Crystal Pite, who also takes-on dark dystopian themes with large ensembles and evening-length performances, even though “Impact” has a younger voice and innocence, whether this is intended or not.
Out of its 15 dancers emerge five soloists who dance in contrast to the mass movement of the minions, breaking through their formations or being consumed by them. The soloists, (Heather Arnett, Allegra Baustista, Shareen DeRyan, Anna Greenberg, and Hien Huynh), are also distinguished by Rita Park’s smartly designed costumes, variations on themes of gray cotton layers to the all black, sleeveless outfits of the sycophants. The choreography is highly physical and swift moving, almost to the point of being dangerous, as dancers are flung over others, or leaping off of knees and backs at a relentless speed. And, here is where this work is the most interesting: in its movement for movements sake, where the minions sometimes crawl backwards moving energetically like insects, swarming or repelling away from a soloist like flies to food or birds to their dead prey. A self-imposed, vague narrative also stops this intriguing velocity cold and burdens some of the soloists with stereotypical gestures. Anna Greenberg, for instance, dances the part of some sort of bitch-goddess who is in control of the masses, as they hand carry her across the backs of those rolling beneath her or as she waves her arms as if conjuring up a storm. This choreography repeats itself, making her menacing and flippant hand gestures even more challenging to accept after the second or third time.
Hien Huynh contrasts Greenberg’s character with a more Tai Chi styled movements as if playing the role of the healer or philosopher. Huynh’s character is freer to show his musicality and physicality, frequently leaping across the stage or repeatedly still-jumping to create a sense of time and space. Resident composer Aaron M. Gold’s, commissioned musical score—recorded from inside Brutalist structures throughout the Bay Area is an equally strong force of design and atmospheric structure incorporating layers of found sounds from those locations. “Impact” was designed to leave many visual impressions in its wake, many of which are worth remembering, and with refinement would be truly impacting.
David E. Moreno