Two works by guest artists raise the bar in “Rhythmically Speaking: The Cohort,” at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis through Saturday.
Choreographers Rohan Bhargava, based in New York, and Pat Taylor, based in Los Angeles, bring pieces performed previously by their own companies. Bhargava’s “Kool Kids 2.0” adds a dose of delight while Taylor’s 2003 work “A Love Supreme,” based on the music of John Coltrane, lends lyrical depth to an evening that also includes world premieres by local choreographer Julie Warder and artistic director Erinn Liebhard.
In all, Rhythmically Speaking’s summer program showcases the ensemble very well.
In “Kool Kids 2.0,” four performers ponder capitalism while waiting for their train with beatboxer Fernando Acevedo (aka Apparition Muzik). An ominous presence who pushes the action forward, Acevedo doesn’t so much accompany the dancers as perform with them. As for the dancers, they introduce the sound score at the beginning of the piece through body slaps, sighs and stomping, all done with delicious complexity of movement and sound.
“A Love Supreme,” meanwhile, offers an opportunity for the ensemble to tap into deep emotion. The first section, in particular, featuring the female dancers in draping gowns, makes luxurious use of line and shape, before the women are joined by the larger cast. In later sections, the dancers display technical skill as Coltrane’s jazz masterpiece exudes through the movement.
As for the two premieres, Liebhard and Warder offer playfulness, a sense of humor and an exploration of how humans connect to one another.
Liebhard’s “Feist(meist)er” is silly and groovy with quick poses, eccentric gestures and spins. There may be animosity explored in the piece between the characters, but it’s all done with levity.
Warder’s “What’d U Say?!” introduces the character of an elderly woman who has more up her sleeve than her onlookers expect. Kathleen Pender, a young dancer performing the character, captures a kind of sloppy jocularity in her solo performance. She’s a joy to watch.
With a smaller number of pieces than in past years, and a core group of dancers, “Rhythmically Speaking” seems like it’s entering a new level of sophistication. The two guest pieces help elevate the level of the work, giving the dancers a chance to shine.
Sheila Regan is a Twin Cities critic and arts journalist.