DANCE REVIEW: Bruce Springsteen and other E Street Band members lent their music to the troupe.
Since premiering in 2004, Shapiro & Smith Dance's "Anytown" has evolved in many ways. Some changes have been borne out of sadness -- the death of choreographer Danial Shapiro in 2006 -- and some represent hope for the future, particularly in the work's latest version, performing at the Guthrie Theater this weekend.
On Friday night the troupe, under the direction of Joanie Smith, delivered a performance bursting with heartfelt realism from the veteran dancers as well as the promise of youth from its fresh faces.
Bruce Springsteen, plus his wife, Patti Scialfa, and Smith's half-sister Soozie Tyrell (both independent recording artists as well as E Street Band members), lent their music to "Anytown." Setting movement to songs from these musicians must have been daunting, but from the beginning both Shapiro and Smith were drawn more to the feelings evoked than the words themselves. Using dance they discovered new meaning and unexpected emotional juxtapositions.
Liner notes from the composers, projected onto the wall during the show, introduced themes of family, love, faith, despair and redemption. "From so many stories come even more questions," said one. In "Anytown," resolution is an illusion. A sense of restlessness driven by desire and dissatisfaction -- or the tension between the two -- underscores each interaction. On Friday, this conflict was embodied most strongly in Emilie Plauché Flink's portrayal of a woman who lashes out as often as she nurtures, especially in her interactions with Carl Flink. Their duet to Springsteen's post-9/11 song "Empty Sky" haunted in its tentative attempts at tenderness between two wounded souls.
There were moments of pure joy -- Megan McClellan's sassy stomp to Scialfa's "City Boys" and a rousing revival set to Springsteen's "Maria's Bed" (Kari Mosel and José Bueno delighted in a lovers' romp). But the piece also explored disappointments, like when Andrew Lester and Eddie Oroyan channeled the beaten-down dreams of Springsteen's working-class homage "Youngstown" in their methodical and muscular steps, or Mosel slashed wildly through Tyrell's "White Lines."
Those who have seen Springsteen live know he cares more about creating a shared experience than simply playing music. "Anytown" does the same. It's not about watching dancers interpret songs. It's a celebration of the unpredictable dance that is life. And as Laura Selle Virtucio led a head-held-high march toward the uplifting finale, we all longed to join in.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.