Sometimes dancers can bite, but not with their teeth. Biting is a break dancing (aka breakin’) term describing when one person takes another’s unique move and personalizes it during a “battle.” BRKFST Dance Company showed off their biting skills — and much more — on Thursday night with the premiere of “Seconds” at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.
BRKFST, formerly known as In New Company, is a collaborative effort. The “Seconds” dancers — including Lisa Berman, Renée Copeland, Travis Johnson, Wealthy Phonseya, Joseph Tran and Cheng Xiong — are a vibrant crew. Their work examines conformity, so the choreography begins with the performers, dressed in identical coveralls, moving together as one. They inhabit a spare space, defined by lighting designer Karin Olson’s artful use of shadow.
Of course, humans can only conform for so long. Rebellion manifests in small and big ways. BRKFST’s dancers possess breakin’, martial arts and contemporary dance skills, which they merge into an explosive force for change. Their trudging becomes sliding and eventually flipping, diving, rolling and spinning. The musical score, created by Katrah Quey, Breakaway and Copeland, grows more varied, too, incorporating breakin’ beats into a futuristic, sometimes industrial sound environment.
As the dancers embrace their new freedom, we witness the depth of their skills. Tran, Phonseya and Cheng, in particular, have a flexible relationship with gravity, dancing like emissaries from “The Matrix.” Copeland, familiar to followers of Ananya Dance Theatre and Hiponymous, adds hints of Odissi and a postmodern movement aesthetic. Johnson and Berman tie the troupe together with fluid style and rock-solid technique.
“Seconds” is engrossing but it also ends a bit abruptly, with more artistic terrain to explore on the conceptual side. Here’s hoping BRKFST continues to experiment with all of the possibilities. Still, it’s good to leave audiences wanting more, and BRKFST has set the stage, literally, for new explorations.
This is a company to watch — in many ways BRKFST shows us the future of dance. Defying conformity is the message of “Seconds” but it is also a call for more conversations across different forms of movement, and not just for aesthetic purposes. The Twin Cities breakin’ and hip-hop dance scene (in all of its variations), is rightfully gaining a higher profile not just locally but on a national and international level, as well.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities dance critic.