Minnesota's annual "Momentum: New Dance Works" festival opened at the Southern Theater last week with a pair of shows that, as our reviewer wrote, required an open mind. And that's putting it mildly.
This week's pairing, featuring Twin Cities performance groups Cathedral and StrongMovement, is a bit more accessible, though the two groups do stretch the limits of genre and form.
The evening starts with Cathedral's "De'Light," which bears striking resemblance to another work that hit the Twin Cities a month ago: Kimberly Richardson and Ryan Patrick's new piece for the McKnight Theatre Fellows' "Works in Progress" showcase, presented at the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. For that show, Richardson and Patrick transformed hoop skirts into amorphous media of otherworldly proportions. With "De'Light," the Cathedral dancers wear ominous animal masks and find ingenious ways to mutate hoop skirts into several mythical beings — including floating creatures of the deep.
It's obviously just a coincidence that both shows — one framed in the context of a theater event, the other a dance festival — feature primordial hoop skirt dances. But the shows share other traits, too, including an exploration of theatricality and a sense of whimsy.
Cathedral could easily be categorized as "performance art" with its fluidity of genres and forms. The group's three members (Dolo McComb, Kimberly Lesik and Scott Stafford) use their Momentum performance to try on different beings, images and worlds, with the help of a long red piece of fabric, which they get a lot of mileage out of manipulating. They are part court jesters, part children at play, part ritual leaders.
The evening's other work featured choreographer Darrius Strong, of StrongMovement, situating human bodies more definitely in the realm of a dance performance. But his show still vacillates between different styles, including modern dance, hip-hop and a bit of break dancing, with some stage combat and acrobatics thrown in for good measure.
Strong's "6" features a sci-fi narrative, with six dancers journeying into the unknown. Wearing geometric black outfits, the performers each search for connection with other living beings, fighting and prodding each other with curiosity along the way. They even look to the audience in this quest — viewers find themselves bathed in spotlights for a few moments while the performers gesture fiercely, as if trying to get their message to us.
Strong uses the Southern Theater's architecture to full effect, finding spaces created by doorways and the theater's defining arch, as well as the massive back wall, for moments both intimate and epic. The piece's moody lighting design (by Heidi Eckwall) helped create the rather gripping story.
Athletic and steamy, Strong's choreography also probes and reflects, providing a satisfying layer of depth.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts writer.