Project Bound plays with small bites in rare mixed bill at Color Club

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    Project Bound Dance presents "Buffering" at Color Club; Photo by A. Deran Photography
    Project Bound Dance presents "Buffering" at Color Club; Photo by A. Deran Photography


Project Bound Dance put on one heck of a show last year with “If It’s Stuck, Shake It Loose” at the Color Club. This year, the company returns to the same venue but goes a new direction with “Buffering.”

“Buffering” continues through Feb. 18 at Color Club on North Elston.

What struck me about their previous show was how effectively abstract concepts—like try/fail, emotional explosion, human savagery—were expressed through bodily shapes and precisely timed group movement. In “Buffering,” the shapes remain but are performed with an execution that favors the individual over the group, perhaps a byproduct of the choreographic choice by co-directors and choreographers Ashley Deran and Emily Loar to create in collaboration with their dancers.

The theme of water is explored in the opening number “Something Great” (2023), with two rows of dancers wearing shades of blue, bobbing like jelly fish caught on a wave in the ocean as spatters of light (by designer Smooch Medina) pop in and out against the back wall as if reflected off the surface of a swimming pool. The groups flow with each other but the timing is imprecise; they appear more like things in water—gnarled seaweed or skittering crustaceans—than water itself. As sounds of gurgling water grow to an electronic cacophony, all break apart, stirring in a whirlpool that carries them out to sea, an obliteration of a group cohesiveness that never returns.

Ever notice how some people seem to coast through life without having to try? In “Faded Billboards (Relatable)” (2024), a work in progress duet created and performed by Loar and Ali Lorenz, Loar is always giving the other the side eye, glancing over Lorenz’s shoulder as one copying off a test, second guessing themself; Lorenz, on the other hand, is nonchalant and moves without a care. As a rising tide lifts all ships, Lorenz literally carries Loar on their back, spinning in a long diagonal downstage. By the end, Loar desperately tries to match her partner, becoming in and out of sync, a tale of comparing oneself to others, an example of the company’s superior ability of storytelling.



Project Bound Dance presents "Buffering" at Color Club;Photo by A. Deran Photography

“12 Unfinished Thoughts” (2024), though disconnected from “Something Great,” appears to continue the story set by the latter as the whirlpool smashes seven dancers together, rips them apart and sends them out one by one to the sound of a playful ostinato against a smooth jazz background by sound designers Sam Grendel and Sam Wilkes. Dancers drift in and out of each other’s paths, but usually everyone tumbles in their own space. Soloists spring out like balls sucked up by a lottery machine, the standout being Haley Marcin, whose lightning-fast kicks and frenetic arm chops move quicker than the eye. Again, the company of dancers are whipped up into a frenzy as the music swells, again carried away in a deluge of adrift bodies, further deconstructing the cohesiveness of the group.

The second act opens with “To and From,” created and performed by Danielle Gilmore and Melissa Pillarella who borrow from original source material from Shirley Mordine’s 1979 solo, “Letters to my Son.” Gilmore and Pillarella, like pious monks dressed in white, move with calculated deliberation to the sound of Pom-pom-POM-pom drumbeat; the contrast in technique from the previous works is noticeable from the get-go, broader and more angular. They oscillate between humility and righteousness, trading spaces in a repeating call-and-response as one crawls back dejectedly as the other charges forward. Eventually they connect, unified by some spiritual force, braided together and swaying like a human rope bridge atop a windy mountain, another struggle between individualism and the longing for human connection.

The show’s climax is an unexpected excerpt from Mordine’s “Edgemode” (1994) that takes us back to the popular aesthetic of the ‘90s. The multi-movement work has the full company of eight dancers moving in and out of tandem, free spirits that throw their arms wide and roll across the floor like sharp-edged tumbleweeds. Staccato notes on plucked string instruments give the work a mellow, Eastern music feel; but that changes as a gang of black-hooded toughs break out of the group, stomping around in black boots in a challenge dance. The piece culminates in a silly mosh pit and dancers go all out, bopping around the floor to a juxtaposition of German beer hall and Mexican banda music. These contrasting scenes appear like coming in and out of fever dreams, fun and energetic without narrative cohesion.

What Project Bound’s “Buffering” lacks in cohesive narratives is made up for through sheer joy of expression. Although more abstract than their already abstract previous work, you can’t fault the company for constantly reinventing themselves—that’s why we love them! And it makes one wonder what new direction the company will take next.

“Buffering is presented by Project Bound Dance and runs through Feb. 18 at the Color Club, 4146 N Elston Ave. Tickets are $25-$40 and at or by clicking the event link below.