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Dance Review: Coming Home by ClancyWorks (Oct. 6)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Adrienne Clancy and her ClancyWorks dance company were in residence at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Theatre and Dance this weekend, teaching, presenting workshops. Friday evening the company performed three poetic, athletic works in the concert “Coming Home” at the South Arena performance space.

 

Friends of Dance, supporting scholarships for dance students at the university, sponsored Clancy’s residency. She truly was ‘coming home’ to the Dance Program after 15 years of performing both nationally and internationally.

Dance is the most physical of artistic media, using the body to communicate through kinesthetic, moving imagery. Clancy’s choreography builds emotional and intellectual content with abstract, yet probing psychological use of bodies in contact with each other. Her use of minimal but dramatic props is exceptional.

“Light Armor,” to original music by Robbie Kinter and Marc Langelier, evolved around a clear plastic cube open at two sides. It first enclosed a male figure who was rolled out by four dancers from stage left. The cube became a platform, and then an almost invisible height to be reached. At one moment, a dancer swan-dived from it into the waiting arms of the group. The program notes spoke of “glass walls that separate us and engage…in transparent communication.” There was lots of sinuous partnering, carrying, and deep inverted turns, with lowered head as a leg swept backwards and around in space. This was top notch technical and dramatic performance, although I’m not sure the intended content would have been clear without the foot notes.

The duet “Noise,” with Clancy and Wendell Cooper costumed in army fatigues, was danced to the wild, cacophonous music of Andy Moor and Kaffe Mathews that fit perfectly with the warring, confrontational theme of the movement. Swinging, punching arms, and whirling jumps and falls contrasted with moments of quiet support. One was wounded, dragged to safety, then attacked – each taking a turn to march forward, fall, and roll backwards. The theme was clear, “do we know what we are fighting for,” and the movement design was muscular, strong and convincing.

The final dance, “On taking Steps to Climbing Mountains,” was the most challenging for both dancers and audience. I liked it best, and was intrigued by the use of five ladders, of varied heights, which were manipulated into different architectures on stage. Within these shapes the dancers climbed, extended themselves into split aerial shapes, and supported each other in delicate balanced sculptures. Dancers Stephen Clapp, Alison Cook, Cooper, Nora Gibson and Anastasiya Zlatina transformed the ladders from upright bastions to be mounted, into low attacking machines that plunged forward towards the audience.

This was a dance about partnerships in life. Lifting, holding, balancing against each other’s weight, and even walking high above the others supported on lifted hands and arms. One section developed unison balletic patterns that joyfully flicked bodies into the air in celebration.

The original music, by Leah Smith and Patrick Moss, encompassed bell-like marimba sounds, strong rhythmic drum sequences, melodic Arabic song, some skat syllabic stanzas, and finally a quiet, restful singing that evoked an African lullaby. The entire work was perhaps a bit too long, and could be edited to create the strongest emotional impact, but this was a major choreographic accomplishment for Clancy.

 

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