The Foundry, Cambridge, MA.
December 4, 2022.
Boston-based dance artist Kristin Wagner stepped into the spotlight. She explained that this program, Refract/Reframe, was The Click’s first indoor show (while they have done outdoor and works in progress over COVID, and also considering that the group came together in late summer of 2021). Wagner also noted that this program is one of the first in the venue – a multimedia art space, one of the only in the area that does that while including dance (that latter part all too rare, noted Wagner).
All of this signaled possibility, fresh starts and new beginnings. These artists’ deep experience and investment in their craft shone through just as clearly. This blend of possibility and newness with the thoughtful, prepared and experienced: it created something quite captivating – formed yet fluid, foundationed yet soft.
Angelina Benitez danced the first piece, dancing by myself, a solo of true kinetic intuition, integration and immersion. She slowly walked forward as lights came up (lighting design by Elmer Martinez). As the score rose, she moved into more gesture and momentum pathways. Her body was absorbed in a way that let the movement resonate through her like a rung bell. At the same time, there was nothing high-flying or spinning top-like at hand. It felt like that sort of athleticism wouldn’t serve her quality, anyway, nor the work’s atmosphere — a Norah Jones-easy, late night jazz club-feel.
The end brought her full circle; to end the work, she walked back out of the spotlight as it lowered. Life is a series of cycles, peaks and troughs within waves, I thought. The second work brought us another solo, similarly absorbed and impassioned: Leah Misano’s Inbetween. Misano danced virtuosic feats of flexibility and complex pathways up and down from the floor. There was something cat-like to her blend of grounding and lift, something of that uniquely feline spring.
To Misano’s sincere credit, she also offered lovely slower moments of pausing, walking, simple gesture, even falling to the floor. Pounding the audience with virtuosity can make it lose its effect. There’s also only so much of the spectacular that we humans can absorb at once. Pedestrian moments, in contrast, can confer greater accessibility and humanity. With the abstraction at hand, I felt like I couldn’t know what she was so impassioned about. Yet, sometimes the passion of absorption in the body, when it’s honest, is more than enough.
The next solo, your eyes are mirrors for the skies, came from Lonnie Stanton (creation and performance). From lights up, she created a sense of searching and reaching. Her physical energy extended beyond the stage, flowing out far past her limbs. Her gaze – focused as a hawk’s, but also soft and receptive – was just as clearly focused outward. There were balletic and contemporary elements to her movement, but more so I saw her – as a human.
Again, within the abstraction here, it was unclear exactly what she was searching for or what was so captivating her. Yet, her intentionality and honesty were so very real and clear, and it felt like that’s what truly mattered. The lights came down as she reached and gazed assuredly offstage again. Her mysterious search would continue.
Next came a memorable and captivating duet from Wagner and Tony Guglietti, cradled in the arms of myself (with you). The lights rose on them slowly rising from supine, until they were standing. Their movement was angular, clear, strong, but also contained moments of more rippling and undulating. The blend was entrancing. For a time they created fresh gesture, and then came to unison. They didn’t meet or acknowledge each other otherwise, which felt like a poignant distance.
With additional, if sometimes short, moments of unison and closer proximity in space, they did find more overt connection – and I wondered if that seed would come to full bloom. Either way, the movement vocabulary was captivating. That combined with the humming and instrumentals in the score (by A Beautiful Chorus), in the ether was a sense of repetition, cycles – and perhaps even some sort of stagnancy. Was all of that keeping them from remaining connected? The distance between them opened and closed, ebbed and flowed.
My curiosity was all the way piqued, while the simple beauty of the work also kept my senses dazzled. All of the choices at hand here, from movement vocabulary to structure, called upon academic choreographic concepts incredibly well – yet not in a way that felt pedantic or “done before.” The work could be an Exhibit A of how to make those concepts breathe easy, breathe as their own.
A moment toward the end had them creating a pinwheel, rotating around each other from a central axis of one arm joined to one arm: a moving picture speaking 10,000 words about an unspoken connection between them. The work ended with them hugging – that unspoken connection at its peak. Had the cycle of the distance between ebbing and flowing ceased? We in the audience could decide that for ourselves – the sort of open question that can be more pleasing and meaningful than a neat, tied-up-with-a-bow answer could ever be.
Closing out the program was Wagner’s make light: or how I survived it all: a fresh, intriguing piece of both childlike whimsy and serious rigor. To begin the piece, six dancers faced upstage: complete with doors sporting additional, and slanted, windows (design also by Elmer Martinez). That combined with the brights colors and patterns in their costumes, the aesthetic was refreshing original and pleasantly off-kilter. The ensemble danced facing upstage for a time, making me think about different perspectives and lenses through which we see – and that affecting how we see.
The movement was easeful and integrated, layered and rich but with nothing to “prove”. These artists know that it can speak for itself, so there’s no need to push for “more.” In the first of many chapter breaks, a duet merged into a trio. There was a sense of play and investigation, with dancers’ choices impacting those of their peers.
All of this built a childlike quality, in the best sense of the word: a light, joyful, easeful mutual creation of the parameters of play, children’s play at its best. Yet, from elements from the instrumental score and some weighted movement, there was also a somberness in the air. The work walked that line, creating just the right bittersweet blend – like the best Pixar movies do.
Those weren’t the only atmospheric qualities at hand, however; with a memorable and (at times) strikingly athletic solo from Rachel Linsky, it felt like something mysterious was breaking through. She moved with that sense of exploration, her gaze clear and focused. Other dancers came to surround her and join her in unison movement, like they were following her example: the individual guiding the community.
The movement here was curvilinear, circular but also serpentine, with lovely pedestrian moments as well. Moments of greater ease can make athleticism mean more. Later sections brought striking duet sections, at certain points also with the intriguing spatial tension of a soloist apart from the pairs. The movement came to feel wavelike, overcurve and undercurve offering that satisfying smoothness of a skater in a half-pipe.
A couple of memorable solos punctuated the work’s ending. Angelina Benitez danced another with her signature silky, yet strong movement quality. Alexandria Nunweiler performed a solo with a satisfying understated quality. She knew just the effort to apply to make the movement ripple through her and stay integrated. Interspersed around and within these solos was a good deal of pedestrian movement and purposeful gaze from the ensemble – creating a feeling of community cohesion.
Structurally, this was all developed thoughtfully and rigorously. There were enough of those chapter breaks to keep a dynamism at hand, but not so much as to leave anything underdeveloped. Overall, the work rode the balance of enough, but not too much going on – engaging, even enrapturing, but not overwhelming. It was all part of that thoughtful rigor, yet also youthful sweetness and accessibility that characterized the work.
Bringing the work full circle, dancers faced upstage again, before those door with off-kilter windows. The lights lowered on that image, also with a spiritual feeling in the ether from the choral score. In this moment, as the work concluded, my mind spun with questions and possibility: of ease, of rigor, of community, of the individual. Yet there was also so much to enjoy simply as beautiful, in and of itself. In my experience, the most sophisticated, meaningful art has both potentials.
This program offered a third element, like an unexpected ingredient that makes the dish just right: of newness, of wonder, of hunger for discovery. With such a potent, riveting blend, I’m all ears, eyes, and everything else possible for what The Click has to offer next. As we also step forward into a new normal, it’s a bright new horizon. A sunny, clear day might just be in store.
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.