“Made of Paper,” a contemporary modern, uninterrupted 45-minute dance production, premiered at the Cambridge Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA on February 7, 2010, performed by Kelley Donovan & Dancers. Its choreography, pivoting from constricted, frenetic and jagged pulsations to elongated, spaciously lush layouts (on releve), was disquieting, matching the asymmetric and indeterminate nature of its supporting music. From its opening, morphing figures melted atop exquisitely chiseled calves and demi-pointed feet that upheld the melting forms, bending all the way to the ground. Weighted bodies seemed nothing and everything, as circular spirals (upwards, mostly) abruptly transitioned into writhing, downward plunges into and across the ground, only to rise up, out and through the entanglement of twisted limbs to hover open and wide - flattened against some imaginary backdrop.

“Lion’s Share,” the first piece, featuring Cori Marquis, choreographer and soloist, showcased technically infeasible movements, yet the spirals, flexions, dips, turns and suspensions were perfectly executed on many levels and in varying spaces of the stage, conveying personal intimacies of the dancer, as hands tore across vulnerable chest, and legs slapped open and closed, hard against the floor. Her breath and heart rhythm was the only music in such segments of the dance – a familiar solo-ness that accentuated the dance’s beautiful, if haunting, elocution. Especially intriguing towards the end of this piece was the repetition of frenzied jumps, asymmetric and angular, juxtaposed against rounded, frog-like gaming on the floor, which eventually flattened against the black, stark wall.

Within and amongst all dancers, elements of space, line, energy, synergy, timing, rhythm, balance, weight-shift and transition were all pushed to the outer limits of modern dance choreography. While at times movements spiraled upward, ending in rock-solid adductor-tightening sous-sus fifth position demi-pointes, at others, any arm might thrust forward, palm outward turned, closing suddenly, unpredictably, pulling the torso around with dizzying energy. Combined with a Twyla Tharp-ish dorsi-flexion that wrapped around and contorted an increasingly unstable standing leg, spontaneous upper torso under and over-curves assisted difficult transitions from balanced to imbalanced positions.

Adam Sonnenberg’s broader, slower, masculine presence provided some natural grounding, while his uncompromised agility and obvious ballet/modern mix training catapulted him squarely into the mix of formidable females - his most distinguishing moment being a playful pelvis thrust at the audience – just prior to a round of perfectly completed pirouettes and attitude turns, all corners of the stage. Kelly Donovan’s unique circular and organic energy was often in contrast to the other dancers, as it flowed effortlessly above, below, and against her curved physique, leaving beautiful ‘hand trails’ between her various points of travel. At times, she would emphasize a phrase with ‘finger flutters,’ then seamlessly execute a 180 degree body position change, rounded and smooth – morphing from one shape to the next with weighted, swooping lines.

Jun Lee’s concomitant audience-directed, intensely searing eye contact, and the culmination of lines of dancers feeding from all angles – their alternating contractions of hips, legs and pelvis’ grinding into the earth – with shoulders curled back and entire bodies expiring momentarily into the Marley floors – only to awaken through bursts of unbridled energy exploding at will exemplifies this groups’ electrifying unpredictability.

“Made of Paper” demonstrates important elements of early Modern Dance, such as fall/recovery (Doris Humphrey), sharp and jagged movements of contraction and release (Martha Graham), which express emotional intensity and contemporary subjects, exposing human emotions while symbolizing tensions between the known and familiar. Woven into their complex tapestry are also elements of “chance choreography” (Merce Cunningham), as spontaneous movements ignite the stage, keeping the audience happily disquieted. Everything about the production being sparse – six lights, one iPod (for music outlet), two speakers, no props, minimal costuming (and one errant cell phone), allows for total immersion in the energy and synergy of dancers. Accompanying music is as conceptually complex as the dance, such that an intoxicating Japanese wooden flute is juxtaposed against the repeated annoyance of a lifeless cell phone’s banal voice message: “thanks for calling.”

I get from these compositions that (neither) the dancers (nor the musicians) want to be recognized for recurring themes; thus ‘being’ experimentally in the moment, continually evolving, along with all of life and art’s positive and destructive elements, is essential to their creations. This is a great production for any modern/contemporary dance (or music) enthusiast; hopefully there will be added choreographies, and a longer show, for future performances.

photo by Larry Osgood; www.boston.com

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