By Lauren Warnecke
Now in its 17th season, Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre (SPDW) has hit a stride in the past year with a cohesive group of strong dancers and Joanna Rosenthal Read at the helm. SPDW is one of those companies that sometimes escapes notice, and when one sees the work that Rosenthal Read puts out, it’s hard to understand why. Thick and cushy movement vocabulary, beautifully composed structures, and keen direction give her latest work Stripped (showing at Links Hall Feb 26-Mar 1) its glossy shine, but unlike other companies built on athleticism and Dance (capitol D), Rosenthal Read is ever-intentional about her choreographic choices.
With all the noise of social media and technology, Rosenthal Read sought a fluff-free dance, opting for a “lights and tights” approach and staving off her affinity for multi-media environments. The result is quite stunning as we witness moments of reckless abandon and vulnerability sandwiched between slow-motion gestures delivered with a stone-cold affect. Though seemingly simple, Jacob Snodgrass’ gorgeous amber and blue lighting deserves a nod.
Fresh on the heels of a successful month long run at Dovetail Studios, The Cambrians split the bill for the premiere of a new work set on golden boys Benjamin Wardell and Michel Rodriguez Cintra. Shown alongside SPDW’s Stripped, audiences of The Nexus Project (The Cambrians’ seed project in which Ben and Michel mix and match a dozen-ish dances from a diverse set of Chicago choreographers) have become quite used to the complex structures built by Wardell and Cintra. Clover, however, is decidedly simple: a single choreographer (Melinda Jean Myers), the same dynamic duo, and a lot of highly planned moments designed to look unintentional.
Myers describes the work as “studying forms and structures found in nature, society and art composed of triads and trinities to inspire ways to incorporate myself into the duo’s already established rhythm of movement, collaboration and personal intimacy. The work will research and emphasize the power of the number three by exploring phases in nature such as the new, half, and full moon cycle, the spirit, mind, and body connection, and the past, present and future relationship to time, and many more.”
That would have been interesting, but is not at all what was presented. Instead we got a rambling Wardell voiceover, virtuosic Nexus-esque dancing peppered with cleverly spot-on gestures and dramatic pauses referring to the rehearsal process of Clover, rather than the finished product… plus a whole lot of references to Myers’ new baby. Despite how that sounds, it’s actually hard to find fault with Clover. It’s quirky and thoughtful, delightfully littered with inside jokes and oddities while still managing to show off the mens’ great capacity for dancing. The only problem is, we’ve seen this all before.
Part of what made The Nexus Project so special was the complete departure from what everybody else was doing. The choreographic diversity central to The Nexus Project, combined with a win-win combination of dance phenoms in their prime was nothing short of brilliant. But the pivotal question, of which perhaps Clover is an attempt at an answer, is: now what?
This effort from The Cambrians (who, in this iteration of Wardell, Cintra, and Myers, comes from three members of Lucky Plush Productions) feels too close to work produced by Plush’s Julia Rhoads. Not that that’s a bad thing - it’s all really quite brilliant - but why fraction from an established name, group, image, marketing scheme, successful business model, yada, yada, yada, for more of the same?