Keeping the Momentum: Part two of the Southern's dance series, reviewed by Caroline Palmer

Momentum: New Dance Works
Southern Theater
July 24-26
Thurs.-Sat. at 8pm
Post-show discussion each Friday
Review by Caroline Palmer

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The Momentum: New Dance Works series co-presented by the Walker Art Center and the Southern Theater continues this week with choreographers Anna Marie Shogren and Eddie Oroyan sharing the bill. These artists have different approaches but both share a keen sense of timing, showcased well this weekend.

Shogren’s “La Brea” (nee “I’m a Jerk” or “Upstairs Bathroom”) sneaks up on you. It begins with Katie Rose McLaughlin in a cloak a lá the Grim Reaper or a druid in kneepads. She stutter-steps in the half-light, but soon she gets a groove on and Natalie Bogira joins in for a light run in place. The silence returns and McLaughlin is left staring, each eye made up with a black X. She’s still moving imperceptibly, mouthing words. This is where Shogren establishes her singular approach – long, semi-awkward moments of stillness or seemingly innocuous movements, like later when Bogira balances on two mattresses, dreamily biting a nail. Often the work seems more like an installation – time takes on a different quality here and no one’s in a rush to resolve anything.

The humor is sly – a tape recording goes into great detail about a wound but the circumstances surrounding it are darkly funny – and the trio bound their way through send-ups of 80’s dance-aerobics set to The Pointer Sisters and loose-limbed Cali-style courtesy of Rickie Lee Jones. Still, there’s a sense of trouble ahead, an inability to really get comfortable with the various identities that each performer briefly assumes. Their growing unease leads to still greater pauses. Shogren succeeds in a deliberate approach that, ironically, has nothing to do with being deliberate at all. This doesn’t mean the work is careless; the thought is apparent. There’s just plenty of space to wonder about what you’re seeing – and to decide whether or not you want to fill in the blanks, or let the imagery resonate on its own time.

Eddie Oroyan’s “Brown Rocket” transforms the proscenium with a series of walls painted in a riot of bright colors. He and Laura Selle Virtucio burst into the space in bright red outfits, turning cartwheels, falling into one another’s arms. They can barely contain their happy energy. A live band (Josh Wetjen, Terry Eason, Casey O’Brien and Danny Sigelman) urges them on. Just as quickly the lights go out and the duo reappear on a couch, trying to negotiate their way around one another’s body in that familiar early dating dance. Soon they’re flipping over one another, bouncing off the couch – and the clumsiness turns to easy play.

This romance, it turns out, is doomed and when Wagner’s ominous “Flight of the Valkries” starts up Virtucio launches into a solo that few could equal – it’s a dazzling display of utter mayhem, a bona fide freak out complete with a frenzy of balls launched from all directions. And the madness continues as the relationship falls into a downward spiral, complete with fetishes and a seething anger that teeters dangerously on the edge of violence.

Oroyan and Virtucio are two fearless dancers and they complement each other completely in this work. Their movement is risky and volatile at times but they control it – while still allowing for a sense of complete abandon. As a choreographer Oroyan proves he can balance kinetic thrills with nuanced emotion – and the ambitious stage set by Collin Sherraden adds a surprising and vital element to the dysfunctional love affair as it plays out under the lights. This is certainly one of the most exciting and memorable works shown locally this year. -- Caroline Palmer


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