In all honesty, I wasn’t planning on writing about this show. But here I am, a few days later still thinking of few things really worth mentioning and well..my fingers have been getting itchy.Pulse 2, in conception, is a gamble. Pairing the MADCO dancers with the music department (graduates, students, and professors alike) for live dance and live music adds yet a whole new set of possibilities for things to go wrong. It also adds a new dimension and element for things to be right. This show had a little of both.
There were elements to enjoy in each piece. ‘Pulse‘ with choreography by Vance Baldwin and danced by the company was full of life, lifts, and energy. “Crossing the Line’, also choreographed by Baldwin showed a range of modern techniques with elements of Horton and Hawkins that made for nice contrast. The music felt vaguely flat and repetitive and the combination of jarring strings and the underwater bubbly sounds of the vibraphone were an odd match. It wasn’t clear where the piece was going.
Synergy, on the other hand, was pretty transparent in meaning. Each series of duet had impressive moments and the pairing of dancers Monica Alunday and Elyse Anderson was especially promising. However, it was hard to tell if they were supposed to be together or one count off for the majority of the duet. The eye had to jump from one gorgeous dancer to the other and I’m sure great moments were missed. The sum is often more than the individual parts but it also takes greater energy to break apart a stable unit than it does to hold one together. (Get my hidden meaning?) The other duets were nice, there were some exciting partnered moments particularly the caught double tour from Brandon Fink and Belicia Beck. The music featured piano, cello, and something else that I can’t remember. I normally weep at anything with piano and cello so it was disappointing that the music didn’t leave much of an impression on me personally.
I will declare myself a boring old bunhead here but I am slow to get on this ‘areal art’ trend. Mostly what I have seen seems like monkeys awkwardly climbing up a vine and then cheating in dancer stretches by letting the ropes/silks/chains do all the work and dangling in a split in the air. Claire Hilleren, in ‘Spiraling Downward’ put that idea to bed. This piece went beyond the stop-and-start of one trick after another. She was absolutely seamless and graceful with the manipulation of the silks/ropes (I’m not sure what they are really called) and dazzling with strength and flexibility. Best of all, each movement seemed created for a purpose beyond the visual spectacle. With music by Axel Fries and wonderful percussion performance -on triangles and the use of a bow on the side of a cymbal- added to a mechanical yet fragile feel. With her constant spiraling and the fanning of legs, Hilleren looked like the hands of a clock possessed by something intriguing, dangerous, and a bit sinister. I should mention that I did not notice that the cymbal was played with a bow- chalk that observation up to the musician I brought as my date next to me. I was busy watching the pretty flexible girl.
The next piece, “Sanzaru’ choreographed by Brandon Fink and performed by the women of the company was compositionally interesting and danced beautifully. The music was very sharply contrasted between a fast-paced aggressive sound and lyrical adagio in a way that felt like the summertime favorite of simmering in a hot tub only to go cannonball in a cold pool. Sometimes it can be refreshing and sometimes it’s just shocking and uncomfortable.
The show ended with ‘Untied‘ choreographed by guest, Cecil Slaughter. The music was epic, with an almost tribal and cinematic tone. It took a while to get going and felt almost silly, like Fred Flinstone dancing, in the beginning. I actually thought the piece was going to be a parody of sorts until about two minutes in when the pace picked up and they really started dancing. Then it was no laughing matter. The dancing was spectacular with clean turns, flashy extension, and powerful jumps often emerging from the ground. Music from James Rich and the UMSL Percussion Ensemble drove the pace and the wonderful experience of surround-sound played by live musicians made the show closing that much more impactful and exciting. ‘Untied’ nicely sewed-up the show, and looked like it was fun to dance, which is what I and my non-dancing guest have come to love about MADCO shows.
More MADCO reviews- including my favorite piece of theirs I’ve yet seen
I’d be curious to know more about how the dancers and musicians came together for much of this work; if the composers had to conference with the choreographers about an idea and each go off and write/create separately until the music could be recorded for rehearsal. All in all, an important collaboration between the talented pools of musicians and dancers in the St. Louis community and each is bettered usually, by the inclusion with the other. It is experimentation and collaboration that deserves high praise. The more we widen the pool of inclusion in the arts, be it music or dance or areal, the more chance we have to learn something new, gain appreciation, and be able to enjoy ourselves further in the future. MADCO’s Pulse 2 ticked all of those boxes for me.
A last note or two of interest, I enjoyed how dancer Monica Alunday became Monica Meyr in the program somewhere between Synergy and Sanzaru. I suppose while Claire was spiralling on the silks, a ceremony took place backstage. I was not served my due wedding cake.
Also, if you create a profile to buy tickets from the Touhill you have an option of prefix including Miss, Mister, Rabbi, Chancellor, and Judge. Those last three really caught my attention. Judge Jess has a certain ring to it.
Congratulations to MADCO and to the composers and musicians for their spirit of collaboration and creation.Join MADCO this Sunday for their Liquid Roads Kick Off Party. They won an Innovation Grant for the production, which will bring back choreographer Gina Patterson (read this review of her last collaboration with MADCO and get as excited as I am)