With shiny, silver gladiator skirts, lush, aggressive choreography and a show-stopping performance by singer and musician Venus DeMars dressed in corset and fishnets, Nic Lincoln's new dance piece, presented as part of the Momentum New Dance Works Series at the Southern Theater, puts out a profusion of spectacle.
For his title, Lincoln uses a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson — "Nothing Astonishes Men So Much As Common Sense and Plain Dealing" — that seems to go against the excesses of his lavishly theatrical work. The extravagance of the show's design, which includes sparks shooting up from a dancer's pelvis as if orgasming streams of fire, are conducted unabashedly but also very deliberately.
Lincoln brings an elegance to his work, fueled by a masculine potency filled with violence and self destruction, with one dancer throwing himself against a wall, only stopping when the other two bring him to calm. Then there's a denouement over the last third of the of the performance, as the fireworks (literal and figurative) settle and the performers move toward a more spiritual plane. DeMars, too, finds a decrescendo over the course of the work, an intentional antithesis to the show's over-the-top beginning.
Thank goodness, despite the numerous changes of hands that the Momentum program has undergone since it began in 2001 (it's currently a program of the Cowles Center in partnership with Walker Art Center and the Southern Theater), it still takes place at the Southern, arguably most beautiful venue for dance in the Twin Cities.
Angharad Davies, whose "The Scraps" is also featured this second weekend of the Momentum series, fully utilizes the beauty of the Southern Theater's architecture. The only Momentum choreographer this year not to appear as a performer in her own work, Davies employs the Southern's unique proscenium to gorgeous effect, creating a series of intriguing stage pictures.
The four performers engage in untranslatable hand gestures that look like mime in their specificity, though it's not always immediately apparent what the gestures signify. The dancers are mirrored by images of themselves, dressed in the same turquoise and black costumes, in video footage by Kevin Obsatz projected on the brick wall behind them. The projected dancers repeat movements the real-life dancers have enacted, as if they have entered some kind of time warp that throws them into a circular concept of time. Rather than being frightened though, the dancers accept their fate, falling into themselves and into the floor with a radical acceptance of life's perpetual thrust.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis writer.