When Gadu, Justin Jones, Kaleena Miller and Pramila Vasudevan presented their work at the Southern Theater last weekend, the four up-and-coming choreographers offered a glimpse into their development process. While not billed as works in progress, the show, which bore no title beyond the names of the choreographers and the titles of their individual pieces, often felt more like a series of studies than finished dances.
Lit by Heidi Eckwall's minimalist lighting design, which used no color, Dustin Maxwell was on stage warming up as the audience trickled in before the start of the show. That set the tone for the evening as a whole, which often played the line between performance and rehearsal. Dancing in Vasudevan's "Headroom," Maxwell exhibited a fascinating nuance of movement in the subtle work, with a rippling torso and an exploration of the very minutest of gestures.
Jones' piece similarly, and perhaps more deliberately, brought the concept of rehearsal into a performance setting. In the midst of the piece, he would stop, suddenly, and move into a different phrase of movement without transition, as if he were practicing for himself, rather than for an audience. That casual, irreverent style didn't necessarily take away from the performance, partly because Jones is such a capricious, inspired performer.
Butoh artist Gadu's "Here Cometh the Balloon Man," easily could have slipped into a clown scene or a burlesque act had it been performed by anyone else. Walking inside a huge plastic bag filled with balloons, Gadu slowly released the balloons to reveal his white painted body dressed in a tank top and ballet skirt. Gadu captivated with his interplay of whimsical imagery and slow, weighted movement, but the work seemed to end just as it was getting started.
While Gadu's work remained firmly in a Butoh style, both Vasudevan and Miller sought to push outside of specific dance forms.
Vasudevan's work bore flashes of classical Indian dance forms, especially in her attention to distinct gestures, while Miller rooted her work in tap, but pushed against the form, especially in relationship to the music.
Miller and her dance partner, Galen Higgins, who contributed to the choreography, gave a refreshing take on a soft-shoe routine in "Door Won't Close." Dressed in bright red, they were like two crayons, embracing and rejecting old-time numbers. Of the four pieces, it felt the most complete, providing a satisfying ending to the evening.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis writer.