Some dance works generate a sort of crackling energy that transcends the boundaries of the stage. Andrea Miller's "Blush" falls into this category. On Saturday night the New York-based choreographer's altogether brilliant troupe Gallim Dance performed this pulse-quickening full-evening 2009 piece at The O'Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University in partnership with Northrop for the "Women of Substance" series.
Miller has made two contributions to the Zenon Dance Company repertory, so local audiences may be familiar with her uninhibited kinetic approach inspired in part by a three-year stint with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company in Israel.
But Miller is very much her own artist, one who draws upon a variety of movement sources to build a specific genre. In "Blush," for example, everything from organic Butoh to punk rock ferocity, Naharin's rowdy GAGA style, a mutated form of Greco-Roman wrestling and even hints of a Bob Fosse Broadway jazz strut come into play. It's a testament to Miller's strong vision that these diverse influences not only coexist but also actively inform one another.
The Gallim members were all terrific in "Blush" on Saturday. Caroline Fermin, Francesca Romo, Emily Terndrup, Austin Tyson, Dan Walczak and Daniel Staaf danced as if their bodies were specially molded for the work. They hunched and crawled, their skin mottled with the same white powder used by Butoh performers.
But when the dancers weren't drawn to the ground they leapt and grappled and vibrated as if someone plugged their limbs into an electrical socket. Time and again these dancers found equal grace in both the beautiful and the ugly, generously allowing every aspect of their humanity to be revealed over the course of the physically demanding work.
"Blush" is a stark piece, set against a black background in a space defined by white strips of tape.
It isn't based on any sort of literal concept — there's no overt focus on embarrassment or shame. In fact this piece reveals the very opposite. Sometimes people blush with intense exertion or unchecked joy. They do so when called upon to act with courage by drawing upon an unknown power from within. Miller and her dancers show what is possible when humans push themselves to an emotional and kinetic brink. They dare to be brave and we all watch with wonder.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.