I could come up with about a hundred stories for Project Bound Dance’s abstract piece “If It’s Stuck, Shake It Loose, performed on Feb. 17 at the Northside event space, Color Club. PBD’s directors, Ashley Deran and Emily Loar, led their company of six dancers—Stacy DeMorrow, Kathryn Hetrick, Isabella Limosnero, Ali Lorenz, Sarah Morimoto and Loar—in a display of solid technique, acute attention to rhythm and set to an ambient acoustic and electronic rock soundtrack, with lighting design by Smooch Medina.
The program begins with a circle of dimly lit bodies floating adrift, isolated, surrounded by an inky void. The sound of many lungs inhaling deeply, then, WHOOSH!, a sharp exhalation sends them all flying backwards, like an overpowered sneeze.
“What do you do when your body’s bursting?” a voice asks. The dancers pop up, the assemblage of bodies forming the face of a crag. Draped atop the rocky outcropping, a lone figure recites a list of every insecurity imaginable, then concludes, “I think if it’s stuck, we’ll have to shake it loose.”
The tone shifts from Hellenic statuesque poses to wild excitement as the gang devolves into a roving pack of animals. In a diagonal line, the jungle beasts toss high their knees and slap their fists in a series of canonical movements to the tune of a four-on-the-floor beat accompanied by musical chords that sound like they are coming from an old-school Nintendo.
There is a squeaky board in the venue that I am not sure is a planned part of the program. Dancers in repetitive parts would hit the “squeak” at equal intervals in the music, making it sound like an added effect, in the style of Gene Kelly’s solo dance scene in “Summer Stock.” This is coincidence, of course, but also testament to the clear quality of rhythm in the PBD dancers. When it’s done right even a squeaky board becomes art.
Another good use of repetitive thematic material is when one dancer performs a set of basic moves, interacting uniquely with each of the other dancers. They respond like a tidal wave, lifting and pushing her swiftly backwards. Undaunted, the dancer tries again, quicker this time, same result. Faster now. Faster still! The dancer learns to no avail that they are no match for the tempest of charging bodies and tensed limbs.
Every section has a unique nature of its own. A soloist appears like a scared spider peering over a waterfall. A duo performs what resembles a Tarantino-esque “cool” movie dance, but at x1000 the skill. Towards the end of the program, a large group performs a scene like a lifetime told through a montage of vintage social dance, giving off an aloof Nancy Sinatra-like vibe.
A return to familiar territory reveals a narrative after all. Meta-references to “passion projects” show the work to be self-aware, existing in the real world. Phrases and themes are repeated, like motifs in a song, developed and changed, but maintain their formal integrity.
The work could be interpreted in a hundred different ways, none of them necessarily correct or incorrect; however, each interpretation must take into account the thoughtful direction of Loar and Deran and the intuitiveness with which the company of dancers performed every movement.
Project Bound Dance’s “If It’s Stuck, Shake It Loose” succeeds in the difficult task of expressing abstract concepts in a clear way through shapes and movements. Rhythmic cohesiveness and thoughtful imagery provide the viewer with concrete tools to construct their own narrative reality of the work.