Bates Dance Festival, Bates College,
Lewiston, Maine, July 30, 31, 2010
How glad I am that rather than seeing dance, I sense it!! That gave me a wow of a time last evening viewing the Axis Dance Company perform three works from three consecutive years (2007, 2008, 2009) by three different choreographers (Joe Goode, Alex Kelly and David Dorfman). The dancersRodney Bell, Lisa Bufano, Janet Daz, Sonsheree Giles, Sebastian Grubb, and Alice Sheppardperformed in all pieces and are credited as co-choreographers.
The Axis Dance Company is a company of dancers with and without disabilities, some in wheelchairs, some have prosthetic legs. In expressive ability there seems little distinction.
Although each piece was accompanied by both music (sound) and text, I tend to ignore the meaning in a text as it throws me into a brain mode (instead of a sense mode). However, in these works I found the tone and cadence of the spoken word an added voice to music, another layer to accompaniment. The prostheses became another motion tool. The whizzing wheels and the pumping to propel the wheelchairs were an integral part of the motion statement, and were used in a manner not unlike the way properties were used in some of Nikolais worksthe tumbling, the darting and spinningpurposeful and fluent motional acts.
The choreographic styles of Goode and of Ketley seemed to me similar in taste, verging often on the lyrical, finding and moving from shapes and gestures, while Dorfman speaks with changing motion. That the company can adapt itself to both speaks well for their artistry.
While the erratic lighting of the Dorfman piece was arresting in its innovation, I found that it was not always legible. Sometimes it added to the motional statement, as in the beginning where a strip of light seemed a partner to the motion. This device was too soon dropped. At other times it just was (a display in itself) and verged on becoming a distraction.
I was accompanied by a student from Colima University, Mexico. During the lyric pieces I felt him sometimes almost crumble into sadness. This did not happen during the Dorfman work. He later told me that he thought at those times of his six-year-old cousin who has a withered arm. Is it that lyricism opens the door to emotion while frank energy does not?
The Axis Company is ready for anything that any good choreographer can lead them into.
Ruth Grauert, August 1, 2010