Bold ideas can provoke a strong feeling of unease. This fact was proven Thursday night in Walker Art Center’s Momentum: New Dance Works series, presented at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Leslie O’Neill and SuperGroup, in collaboration with Rachel Jendrzejewski, shared a program that was by turns inspiring and frustrating.
The members of SuperGroup (Sam Johnson, Erin Search-Wells and Jeffrey Wells) push themselves with virtuoso projects. In “it’s [all] highly personal” they demonstrate a high degree of control by manipulating voice and movement, falling into and out of sync with one another as well as Jendrzejewski and several guest dancers. This organic sense of order — and disorder — is encouraged even as the audience enters into the space and is invited to mimic the performers onstage before the piece begins.
But what impresses about this piece also irritates. The text, with its purposefully self-absorbed statements delivered (and repeated) in sing-songy, robotic or choral vocalizations, rises to a Babel-like level. The breaks of silence offer relief plus a chance to better appreciate the intricate idiosyncracies in the choreography. So, point made about the relentless cacophony of humanity — for good or bad, it is fully present in this work.
O’Neill’s “Fortress,” performed by Laura Selle Virtucio and Erika Hansen Nelson, delves into the secret lives of girls. If teen-centric author Judy Blume ever made a dance, this is what it would look like. Virtucio’s the hyper show-off and bully, Nelson the introvert trying to keep up — and exact revenge. They play and struggle within a world of granny blankets, jungle gyms, trees and barbed wire. No one said growing up is easy.
The understated yet smart choreography by O’Neill (who is also a member of Zenon Dance Company) takes its cue from the awkwardness of youth — gawky impulsiveness with bodies barely in control. But the storytelling rambles at times — the torment lingers too long while the reconciliation isn’t savored enough. O’Neill captures the slow pace of childhood, but as is the case with SuperGroup, she’s perhaps too successful in her realism.
Week two of Momentum, which marks its tenth anniverary this year, presents an entirely different program that features “F6” by Pramila Vasudevan/Aniccha Arts, an exploration of the different dynamics existing between audience and performer, plus Jennifer Arave’s “Canon,” a solo for dancer Mary Ann Bradley based on the aggressive posturing of punk-rock icons.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.