When choreographer Erinn Liebhard presented her latest dance piece, “in:habit” at Icehouse back in May, it gave a sense of what she was trying to do, but there was something missing.
The dancers were grooving, there was an electric energy that comes with that kind of social venue, and the Icehouse’s balcony and stairs provided some neat opportunities for levels. Yet the piece felt a little cramped.
This weekend, “in:habit” gets a chance to breathe onstage at Illusion Theatre. Liebhard revisits the work as part of “Rhythmically Speaking,” the annual showcase of jazz and vernacular dance that she produces. With a bit more space for her dancers to move around in, her sporty movement and interchanging rhythms, and effortless low-to-the ground cool are able to breathe more easily, in a satisfying performance.
Liebhard’s is one of several strong group works presented this year. The dances presented at “Rhymically Speaking” aren’t about pushing. Instead, loose and spontaneous are the names of the game.
That's not only true of the moves, but also for a bit of spoken word by See More Perspective, who delivers two poems during the show. Coming in once during the first act and again in the second, the pieces reflect on world events with an expressive pulse.
Karla Grotting’s beachy “Hold and Release,” a premiere, sets the mood for the evening. Her choreography flows and stretches, winding down riffing paths as recorded music by the Saxopaths takes unexpected turns.
Jeffrey Peterson, formerly based in the Twin Cities and now living in Pennsylvania, has an impressive piece about fighting against isolation through human connection and touch, with some nice work by local dancer Laura Selle Virtucio as part of an 11-person ensemble.
O’Calla Joslyn presents a documentary-style memoir dance piece, taking the audience on a journey back to the 1990s. Through voice-over, Joslyn explains how she discovered jazz funk from Rosie Perez’s Fly Girls choreography on the TV show “In Living Color.” Footage of the Fly Girls dancing and interviews with Perez play in the background as Joslyn’s interpretation of Perez’s choreography juxtaposes with the more banal, restrictive styles of dance she learned growing up. The piece’s delivery is sometimes choppy, but Joslyn’s vulnerability is heartwarming.
The evening has two riveting solo pieces. The first, “A Love Poem for Lonely Prime Numbers,” created and performed by the incredibly bendy Laura Osterhaus, will leave you gobsmacked by her articulate moves.
The second, a premiere called “numb bumb” by Kaleena Miller, actually gets the audience up on their feet and tapping. The nuanced character portrait holds some dark tones beneath its hot pink veneer, and Miller envelops that tension marvelously.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.