The new dance work "Isotope" riffs off the periodic table of elements. But it's really about the uncanny chemistry between movement and music. Transformation is the theme — just as elements are altered when they come into contact with each other so, too, are the artists and audience by the end of the evening. The collaboration between Hatch Dance and "slow-burning atmospheric alternative band" Poolboy premiered Thursday night at the Southern Theater.
Helen Hatch, a former member of Minnesota Dance Theatre, formed her eponymous company in 2017, and uses ballet as the base for a taut unadorned choreographic approach. Together with vocalist and songwriter Seth Conover (joined in Poolboy by Brett Bjornrud, Travis Thorp and Jeff Dreblow), Hatch has conceived a performance that both explodes and dissipates over time.
Hatch introduces the show with two older works, "3 Card Man" (2017) and "Warped (Excerpt)" (2014), and sets a mysterious tone. Each piece focuses on shifts in attention, such as the use of misdirection in a card trick to the subtle awakening sparked by human touch. Precision propels Hatch's perspective — clean lines and sleek transitions are prominent. And yet there's heart and soul, too, particularly as dancers Jadyn Reddy and Christian Warner circle toward each other in their "Warped" duet.
Hatch Dance is packed with skill — in addition to Reddy and Warner, powerful movers Berit Ahlgren, Kacey Hauk and Anton LeMon round out the cast. Hatch herself — as both dancer and artistic director — offers a point of view that intrigues and definitely invites more investigation.
"Isotope" builds through a 10-song cycle beginning with "Designated Mourner" and ending with "Fringes." These poetic signposts indicate that even when the work is at its most playful, a sense of despondency lies beneath its surface. Hatch's dance-making is finely wrought at first but as Poolboy's shimmering psychedelic edge takes hold the sharper edges dissolve, sometimes to the point of blur.
On occasion "Isotope" wanders — some kinetic ideas are picked up and set aside too quickly or the choreography relies too heavily on simply responding to the music. There's a fine line between being mesmerized and hypnotized — sometimes Hatch's choreographic choices fall into the latter category. While the collaboration is far more effective than not, and worth exploring further, it is important that the movement truly assert itself, especially when the live music is so filled with sonic twists and turns.
Caroline Palmer is a Twin Cities critic.