Capital Fringe Review: ‘Big River (and Other Wayfaring Ballets)’ by Rick Westerkamp

If you are looking for accessible art, deeply rooted in a tradition that dates back to the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, but with unexpected, modern twists and turns, MOVEius Contemporary Ballet presents Big River and Other Wayfaring Ballets is the show for you!!

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In the course of this hour-long program of contemporary ballet works, I was at once astounded by the talent of all of the artists, inspired by the choreography, and captivated by the artistry of the choreographers and dancers whose work shines so bright in this hour long program. The company of dancers (comprised of Carrie Denyer, Kelly Devlin, Erin Fitzgerald, Jennifer Hausdorfer, Kathleen Howard, Melissa Lineburg, Catherine Roth, Olivia Sabee, Christine Sawyer, Shelley Siller and Sarah Waldrop) brings to the table passion, performance quality and precision with every leap, step and turn they take on the stage.

If one were to dissect the program into two acts, the first act is comprised of three works and the second act is comprised of one work in nine movements. The first act opened with the premiere of Shelley Siller’s Renforcé, in hues of teal, blue and grey. Siller’s strength is in the interweaving of this trio of dancers (Roth, Sawyer, Weitz), and their uniformity in their expression of this very visceral movement vocabulary. The piece unfolds like one’s search for clarity and self-awareness after a traumatic event or serious life change.

Next in the program was Founding Director Diana Movius’ work Learning to Run (2011), which existed in two themes: blue lighting with dancers in grey and yellow dresses, and pink lighting with purple and multi-color striped dresses. This piece encompasses the spectrum of balletic movement, from the fast, little jumps and sharp lines (performed by Fitzgerald and Lineburg), to the sustained lines and fluid, sweeping movements (performed by Denyer, Devlin, Hausdorfer, and Sawyer). In this work, Movius adeptly translates a complex score by Steve Reich into movement. With each note of the score, the dancers embody the sound perfectly. Movius’ work speaks to the balance we all strive to strike between our personal and professional lives, and made this audience member feel as though the tools needed for the fast paced aspects of life are just as useful as those needed for the more fluid aspects, and vice versa.

The conclusion of act one was Katya Vasilaky’s The Sun is Not Sinking (2013), featuring Roth, Siller, Sabee, and Weitz), in black dresses, with a soloist in tan and teal. Vasilaky utilizes her quartet of dancers to represent the various aspects of one person, and how sometimes we may outgrow these aspects of ourselves, and will discard them to mature, but those discarded aspects live on in their own way as we outgrow them. The ways in which the dancers penetrated the space with their coquettish advances and dynamic movement quality and the varied composition by Vasilaky worked in harmony to create an interestingly woven arc for the piece.

Act two of the performance, Ballet Mistress Kimberly Parmer’s Big River (premiere), is truly the pièce de résistance of the eventing. This ballet in nine movements, set to the music of Johnny Cash (and performed by Hausdorfer, Lineburg, Siller, Roth, Sabee, Sawyer and Waldrop), is the perfect balance of the technique and tradition one associates with ballet and the glamour, glitz, and humor that today’s dance-themed television shows like to display. It is to Parmer’s credit that her choreography is sophisticated enough to simultaneously communicate precise group unison and the individual artistry of each dancer. Parmer presents various permutations of her cast, each one more of a success than the one preceding it, to such Johnny Cash hits as Unchained, I Walk the Line, and Big River, to name a few. The stand out moment of this ballet is a solo set to “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” danced by the physically arresting and balletically adroit Sarah Waldrop. Waldrop’s emotional maturity and physical ability, paired with Parmer’s gifts as a choreographer culminate in this at once stark, tender, and visceral solo expression.

Thematically, I responded to the exploration of the ups and downs of one’s career and one’s life through movement, and the fact that said exploration is set to the soundscape of Cash’s career, known for his personal and professional ups and downs, is quite poetic. Only a choreographer of Parmer’s caliber, with her illustrious career, could strike this blissful balance of pathos and pizazz.

MOVEius Contemporary Ballet presents BIG RIVER and Other Wayfaring Ballets is sure to thrill dancers, dance aficionados, and Johnny Cash fans alike. There really is something for everyone in this evening of artistry and athleticism. During a brief pause in the show, Founding Director Diana Movius addressed the audience about the big things in store for the company this coming year. I hope you will make it out to this show and become a patron of Montgomery County’s resident contemporary ballet company, because their dedication and determination produce the most dynamic expression of ballet dance in the area!

Running Time: 60 minutes.

MOVEius Contemporary Ballet presents Big River (and Other Wayfaring Ballets performs through July 27, 2013 at GALA Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli Square – 3333 14th St NW, in Washington, DC. For showtimes and to purchase tickets, visit their Capital Fringe Page.

2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Big River (and Other Wayfaring Ballets)’ by Tina Barksdale.

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Rick Westerkamp
Rick Westerkamp was born in Colombia, raised in New Jersey, and came to DC in 2006 to attend The George Washington University. Rick graduated in 2010, with a double major in Dance and Theatre, and stayed in the DC/MD/VA area ever since. He has danced for a number of companies in the area, such as darlingdance company, DancEthos, Next Reflex Dance Collective, and UnevEnlane. He is also the managing director of darlingdance company. He has also worked with a number of theatre companies in the area, such as The Apron Theatre Company, The Source Theatre Festival, The Dolce Revolution Project, and Landless Theatre Company. He has also worked as a teaching artist at the Sitar Arts Center, The DCJCC, and Round House Theatre.


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