Choreographer Robin Stiehm plumbed the depths of the intricate connections between people.
Choreographer Robin Stiehm is based in Ashland, Ore., but her Twin Cities dance roots go back to the 1970s. She worked with Minnesota Dance Theatre and New Dance Ensemble before starting her own troupe, Dancing People Company, and heading west. Stiehm was back in Minneapolis this past weekend at the James Sewell Ballet Tek Box to share her diverse repertory.
Friday night's program confirmed that Stiehm's artistic strength lies in her ability to convey the delicate give-and-take balance that defines every intimate relationship. Veronica DeWitt and Alonzo Lee Moore IV performed 1998's "Leaving" with subtle care. The duet delved into aspects of mutual dependence and tender reciprocity, with the dancers seemingly burrowing into each other's bodies, urgently filling up the lingering moments before an inevitable parting.
Stiehm's premiere duet "Ephemeral Lifetimes," on the other hand, offered contrast in style and story. Stellar local movers Mary Ann Bradley and Krista Langberg barely touched and yet their onstage bond pulsated with the power of a vibrant, if distant, connection as they cycled through a heavenly white environment. It was if each danced within the recesses of the other's memories.
The Seven Deadly Sins are a rich source for creative responses, but 2009's "Obstacles to Perfection" fell flat in its depiction of human failings. Stiehm took an overly literal approach -- "lust" was all about a slow-grind, for example, while "greed" and "gluttony" found the dancers coveting and gobbling. Better variations on these themes have revealed the more insidious ways we all fall prey to these vices, a direction Stiehm took only in the closing moments of the work with "pride," as the clawing and grasping performers hastened a hubris-induced fall.
Mathew Janczewski commissioned "Forward Reminiscence" for his ARENA Dances concert at the Cowles Center in March and with this reprise solo he reinforced the fluid and intuitive response inspired by Stiehm's choreography. Performed on a patch of sod, the work's exploration of real and perceived confinement felt even more immediate in the small Tek Box space.
The evening's finale, "Threshold," a trio for DeWitt, Erin Drummond and Brianna Rae Johnson, was also danced on the sod. Although the piece veered unpredictably from states of serenity to unspeakable acts, it still felt anticlimactic. The emotional terrain Stiehm charted in "Forward Reminiscence" was far more disquieting.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.