Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

RG Dance Projects is a newish modern dance company with impressive dancers, headed up by choreographer Ruben Graciani, himself a dancer who performed with Mark Morris from 1994 through 1999.

Friday night, Graciani’s group of dancers presented to a sold-out house, three bold dances. The most impressive piece was the final offering of the evening, We Fall Down, We Get Up. Backed by twelve men and twelve women in a vocal chorus, Emily Craver, Jacob Goodhart, Stephen James, Emily Pacilio, and Leslie St. Jour gave an all-out passionate and focused performance of final redemption and salvation.

“This work is an exploration on one’s boundaries; both those we create for ourselves and those we inherit.”

The dance begins with the dancers rolling, tumbling, crawling onto the stage in a simulated desert landscape. The singers are delivering a wall of celestial, religious chanting that underscores sympathy and salvation for the burden of the human condition. All is heavy and weighty for the dancers–they stumble and help each other.  A red ribbon is strung across the stage in various ways symbolizing prisons and barriers that confine the dancers. Images of squalor, dust bowl-suffering, depression era poverty in the Deep South is echoed in another country bluesy tune–Everything I Got I Done and Pawned.  The dancers get up and fall down, struggle and wilt to the floor– sometimes a bit too long and bit too much. The chorus re-enters with spiritual fervor.

This continues in duets between man and women, man versus man, until in a resolution of wild and harmonious freedom, Indian tabla drumming and sitar strings release the group from their oppression, and ecstatic moments of flying, represented when Emily Pacilio, climbing upon crouched bodies  hurtles through the air with confident liberation, is caught, and repeats the move three times; it increasingly becomes a powerful moment of triumph. Ms Pacilio danced with passion and committed energy here, as well as in Swing and Miss.

“This work is an exploration on one’s boundaries; both those we create for ourselves and those we inherit. I am thinking about how much control we have over the expression of our identity, if some of identifying markers are more or less inherited and permanent.” Graciani.

All the dancers gave their utmost with great energy and conviction. Art isn’t easy–getting an idea conceptualized in movement as metaphor requires the luck and inspiration of a great poet.  There are so many gestures, leaps, twists, turns, and falls symbolizing an idea, that putting it together in a dance is truly difficult. Seeing a piece only once is a challenge, since pieces grow in color and depth as you closely observe.  Rapture, the second dance of the evening wasn’t as successful. The elements were there, the back projection of emotive images, water, clouds, lovers on a wharf, but the choreography didn’t convey the intense message the title suggests. In the Westbeth space, your vision was drawn more to the images on the wall than to the dancers on stage; the dancers became obliterated. Also, the choreography had the dancers strangely chaste, while those on screen were engaged.

Swing and a Miss spoke of the vagaries of love.  In a speedy piece, the choreography was in a classical modern dance mode that had clean and precise lines with first, four dancers in a group, pairings of each man and woman, and lastly, a piece for two women.  Wary approach, wary avoidance. Another peek, another retreat. Love is dangerous, love has pitfalls. The costumes were fun in fiery red and yellow unitards that conveyed robustness, ready and reporting for battle.

 

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