Athleticism, gutsiness lift 'Visceral' dance

  • Article by: CAROLINE PALMER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 13, 2012 - 1:05 PM

REVIEW: Choreography occasionally induced gasps.

Black Label Movement

In an unusual twist for a dance concert, Black Label Movement's "Visceral" program at the Cowles Center may be best described by its sounds. Some moments even merit comic-book-style captions: "Bam!" "Pow!" "Thump!" Athleticism frequently defines artistic director Carl Flink's choreography, and the Twin Cities premiere of 2011's "HIT," in particular, takes his brand of derring-do to new levels.

Inspired by the research of biomedical engineer David Odde, who studies the tumultuous environments within living cells, "HIT" has the scrappy Bryan Godbout, Megan McClellan, Eddie Oroyan and Laura Selle Virtucio pushing, punching, leaping onto and rebounding off of one another. The daredevil movement is sometimes gasp-inducing, especially when Virtucio gets tossed over her fellow dancers' heads in an Olympics-worthy instant. For all-out gutsiness, not to mention its exploration of the unexpected poetry within aggression, "HIT" brings to mind New York choreographer Elizabeth Streb, a pioneer in virtuosity shaped by extreme physical action.

Science also informs "A Modest Proposal," created by Flink in collaboration with biologist and journalist John Bohannon. Originally seen at the 2011 TEDx Brussels, the work centers on a talk by the engaging Bohannon, who wraps up theories about energy, the economy and dance into a cohesive whole. BLM's performers evoke the content (lining up as photons in a laser beam, flowing like super-fluids, or, in Oroyan's case, agitating like an atom). In a short time we see the inter-connectedness of everything. Art informs science, and vice-versa, in this geeky pleasure.

The evening also features the world premiere of "Canary." Greg Brosofske's rock-solid soundscape accompanies a work caught in a mash-up of genres, specifically a 1970s prom gone New Wave with a touch of Goth. The movement has a deliberate stiffness and even emotional vacancy that at first intrigues -- especially because it offers such a stylistic contrast to other works on the program -- but it gradually loses its quirky momentum. Flink seems to be still searching for his choreographic intent in "Canary."

Additional highlights include "A Duet for Wreck" (2006), danced by Flink and Emilie Plauché-Flink. Attraction, repulsion, unison and separation define the interactions in this finely wrought performance. And Virtucio imbues the 2010 solo "For She" with an unsettling anxiety, revealing a battle between competing internal and external forces in her every move.

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