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Nathantrice/RITUALS Dance Theatre

'The Space Between Us'

by Elizabeth McPherson

February 28, 2008 -- 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival, The Ailey Citigroup Theatre, New York

Each of the three dances presented this evening, all choreographed by Nathan Trice, had a sense of ritual about them, relating directly to the name of the company. The dances incorporated unusual lighting and at times the voices of the dancers for a multi-dimensional theatrical effect. Trice contributed to or designed all of the costumes in addition to collaborating on the music for the first dance “Bottom of a Kiss Floating.”

In the press materials, Trice explains that “Bottom of a Kiss Floating” (work-in-progress) is “based on my first girlfriend and the feeling I had when we kissed.” It began with the dancers lying still on the floor, the music swirling around them. As the lights began to rise, Trice started moving slowly, almost hard to discern at first. He also began to sing haunting words to a darkly lyrical melody with his deeply resonant voice. Four of the dancers lying on the floor had big bubble like coverings over their heads, and the fifth, Jacquie Dumas, was costumed similarly to Trice without a bubble. The bubbles created an inhuman image, and the rest of the costumes looked like folded wings or petals. In a few moments, the other dancers began to show signs of life with movements that never left the floor but slithered and undulated almost as if they were spineless. At times they too vocalized but instead of words, they were making sounds that emanated from the quality of the liquid movement. Trice and Dumas performed a duet that seemed an inevitable consummation of love and attraction.

In the second dance “Tactics,” a world premiere, the dancers look as if they were moving underwater with fluid, seamless choreography, again never actually leaving the ground. In contrast, there were moments when some of the dancers just walked across the stage, with a pedestrian matter-of-fact walk. Trice’s explanation for this dance is that the dancers are struggling with “an intangible force.” One dancer, Ernesto Mancebo drew my attention and seemed almost to be the one in control, as if the whole dance were his dream. In one particularly striking moment, the dancers all looked forward and up out at the audience creating an eerie sense. Were they anticipating disaster from the skies or a stormy weather change? Not clear, but following the long look, they began one of the few unison phrases which was mesmerizing in its rippling, undulating movement quality. At the end of the dance, the dancers again gazed outwards and upwards and began backing up as if in dread of what awaited them, but Mancebo had a knowing smile as he looked out. Was he welcoming whatever might come?

The third dance, titled “Conversation” appeared to be just that -- conversations between the dancers, mostly in pairs. Trice explains that he was inspired by interactions at a dinner party. The intricate movements genuinely looked like the physical expression of words and feelings. Several of the “conversations” were repeated, reminding one of conflicts between couples that are continually reiterated but never solved. The movements cut through the space around and over each other with a leg slicing out and a head dropping down. The relationships were intense and captivating. The costumes were casual this time, as if these were people one just happened upon, rather than a planned theatrical venture. Mostly the couples stayed intently focused upon each other, but there were moments when the dancers moved with different partners or all in unison with a feel of being at a party or a picnic where the social relationships are not fixed.

One unusual feature of all three dances was that the dancers wore either tights or socks covering their feet instead of the usual bare feet for modern dance. This lent itself to some inventive moments of slips and slides and perhaps also added to the fluid movement qualities of particularly the first and second dances. The tights extend the entire leg while the socks cut the line. It is an interesting, and company defining, costuming effect.

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