Nothing was too taboo at The Bates Dance Festival's annual showcase concert called Different Dances on Friday evening. Although there were some serene and light-hearted pieces, a surprisingly greater part of the night had a dark side featuring dances about oppression and violence against women. Unplanned coincidence. What really stood out wasn't the topic matter it was the incredible stage presence of many of the performers. Mesmerizing, So captivating in their portrayals, I found myself awestruck, and that doesn't happen very often. Many of the dancers had really solid stage presence as they tackled some seriously uncomfortable subjects.
There were 10 choreographers represented. The audience really got a chance to see a wide variety of work by the faculty of the six week long festival. Different Voices included U.S. based choreographers as well as International contemporary dancers from Africa, Thailand, and India.
Two outstanding female solos, Immaterial Sensiblity by Seattle based Catherine Cabeen and Isingqala by South African based Mamela Nyamza, both appeared dressed as men wearing suits and ties. In very unique ways they both took on a different part of the male personna. Cabeen presented a cocksure, in your face, look-at-me guy using precision and control with elaborate leg and arm extensions and contortions. Nyamza's guy was in trouble and literally trying to outrun his demons but instead ran out of steam. Facing backward and being seen by just a lone flashlight shone from the audience the drama was intense. Both women were outstanding, they embodied their characters with full bodied commitment, it was creepy good.
Next in intensity was Encounter, a dance theater by Aparna Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda. A mix of classical Indian dance, song and music to tell a story about a women's fight against brutality. Sindhoor, a brillant performer used both small gestures and eye movement to convey the struggle. Her subtleness and stillness were eerie. Four male dancers added the physicality that showed power and might which culminated in a brutal scene of torture and rape that was difficult to watch.
The beautiful moments in the evening were provided by Sunon Wachirawaraken from Thailand and Lisa Race from Conneticut. More female misery was touched on by choreographers Onye Ozuzu and Jennifer Archibald.
The evenings most outlandish and full of surprises dance was an excerpt from Corresondences a 2009 duet by Kettley Noel and Nelisiwe Xaba. Dressed in incredibly short dresses and high heels the two talked and danced and had a good humored rivalry. They seemed like best friends or sisters that know everything about each other. It was great theater with some focused moment sections. The end was so strikingly beautiful as they stood atop a big heavy long table, as rubber gloves filled and bulging were lowered down from the ceiling. They each bit on one of the fingers/udders where water began flowing they drunk it in, then allowed it to rain down on them. Totally soaking wet, they got to the floor and began sliding across the stage in puddles of water.
Different voices indeed!
Bates Dance Festival performance Friday August 12, 2011 in Lewiston, Maine