Dance Here, Dance Now, the annual fusion show by last weekend at Overture's Promenade Hall. On the bill were two Kanopy-style modern works, a pair of WADOMA's pieces and two synthetic compositions. Dance Here, Dance Now, like many of Kanopy's efforts, was uneven in both dance quality and choreographic content.
In Kanopy co-director Robert Cleary's visually interesting, nature-inspired "Derivatives?" dancers in silky, jewel-toned PJs rolled like stones or walked in stiff-legged relevé, arms upstretched like boughs. Kanopy principal Meg Johnson set "Before the Dream of Washing Water" on herself with three other company dancers. In twos they swapped places, from atop box platforms to the floor; the choreography was awkward and repetitive.
You know you're still in Cow Town when the program notes refer to a troupe with no Africans as the city's "benchmark African dance company." WADOMA's long, very simple works offered more heart than soul. The first, "Battle of the Elements," choreographed by company founders Otehlia and Padraic Cassidy, mashed up vague titular references with one of those traditional West African village dances common to touring folklore shows. In the midst of rhythm-stepping basket-bearers two women, possibly symbolizing air and water, chased a male dancer (Aaron Jurgens) in a red flame costume. Jurgens had spirit, but dance and drum glossolalia were otherwise missing.
"Fruit of the Baobab Tree," separated from "Battle" by a long percussion set, was similar, sans African garb and spiced with a smidge of salsa.
More successful were the amalgams, no surprise since both Kanopy's Graham-based technique and West African dance depend heavily on contraction and release. Kanopy dancer Lyndsey Groth chose a delicious suite of Miriam Makeba songs to accompany her "One Spirit, One Voice," set on the combined cast. Groth stuck a little too close to African motifs, overlooking potential for more pathbreaking blends. The exception was a well-fused solo for Cristen Woolson, who stole the whole show with her clean modern technique and very pregnant condition.
"Creation Story," inspired by Mande creation myth, was choreographed by Kanopy co-director Lisa Thurrell with Cleary and WADOMA's Otehlia Cassidy. This well-crafted dance, with its Graham-like use of mythology and non-Western idiom, seemed still in progress, but it's already got guts. In one memorable segment Kanopy principal and ballet mistress Kerry Parker stood on her head, gesticulating bare, spidery legs amid a dancing throng. Kanopy dancer and Dando Mambo man Edgar Molino stood alone in the spot, legs in plié, arms straight out in second position, hands circling, head thrown back like a suffering deity as the last lights went down.