"Contemporary dance" is a vague term. Is it ballet mixed with modern? Is it what we see on television nowadays? Is it classier than lyrical?
At Perceptions Contemporary Dance Festival last Saturday, "contemporary" seemed to mean distraught intentions, audible breath, a pounding relationship with the floor, and loose, almost improvisational movements across the board. The program at Manhattan Movement Arts Center included 10 works by mostly emerging chorographers and concluded with a piece by Perceptions Contemporary Dance Company, the evening's host. As would be expected for this kind of mish-mash program, some were good and some...not so much.
Amidst a bit of what I call selfish dancing (overly long works that seem to be only for the benefit of the performers) a standout of the evening was "Hindered Souls" by Jeremy McQueen (disclosure: Jeremy was briefly one of my partners at Radio City). The pas de deux for he and Alexis Covento is loosely based on one of the most gorgeous scenes in classical ballet: the balcony pas de deux from "Romeo & Juliet." But, with the woman's arms bound tight in rope for most of it, there are few obvious visual connections.
The two begin with their backs to each to each other, McQueen still and Covento convulsing in attempt to free herself from the rope. In her efforts she falls forward hitting the floor. He turns. They dance together in grounded yet free movement, complementing each other well. She struggles with wrists connected. On the other hand, he can use his long arms to express emotion. In distress he clenches his fingers and holds his head. She has no such luxury but still manages to convey her feelings.
At the end she throws her tangled arms over his head in a strong embrace. A second later she's released with hands free. The rope lands on the floor. Love frees.
The final image is of him walking away rather abruptly, taking the rope with him as she reaches after him longingly. The literal representation of "Juliet's" bindings (be they cultural, ancestral, what have you) is highly effective even though it must restrict the dancing somewhat. McQueen has created an emotional pas de deux that makes you want to see more.
Other works on the program I'd like to see more of include Natalie Teichmann/ANAHATA Dance, TrioDance Collective, and LeeRoc Dance Project.
(Top Photo by Nick Verzilli)