With GroundWorks DanceTheater, you can always expect something new and different. The company’s performance of three dances at the Akron-Summit County Public Library this weekend was no exception.
The program began with the mesmerizing Inamorata, by choreographer Kate Weare, in which Felise Bagley and Annika Sheaff started the dance in a curved, semi-crouched position with their heads bent as female voices chanted medieval music.
It soon became apparent that they were in a somewhat aggressive partnership with each other. But dancer Gary Lenington took over, controlling Bagley’s every move as if she were a marionette he was manipulating. She was the inamorata, or beloved woman, in Italian.
The dance featured all five company members as well as artistic director David Shimotakahara presenting different combinations and recombinations of relationships. Shimotakahara created a mood of deep need as he repeatedly fell on the floor and leaned heavily on Noelle Cotler as he did an arabesque, she repeatedly supporting him.
In this darkly lit dance, with lighting designed by Dennis Dugan, Bagley was the most fascinating with her staring eyes and quick, mechanical movements as she and Sheaff executed hurried arm movements while stepping quickly on tiptoe. Music enhancing the dance’s dark mood ranged from a Bach cello suite to tango to folk.
The program, which ran Friday and Saturday, also included the Akron premieres of Israeli choreographer Noa Zuk’s After Chorus and Shimotakahara’s Emergent.
This dance had a wild, primeval feeling, beginning with Damien Highfield and Noelle Cotler in frozen poses that, in Highfield’s case, made you think of a caveman coming into being.
He and Lenington wore flesh-colored, tight short-sleeved button-up shirts and shorts, while the women wore shimmering, skin-tight, high-waisted pants with little tank tops.
Music created by Zuk’s partner, Ohad Fishof, began with the lyrics “In our culture, in our systems, in our countdowns, in our unders, in our overs …’’
Soon, the dancers began uttering guttural syllables that coincided with specific movements. As the dancers vocalized sounds such as dee-dee-dee-dee-ay, and ah-ah-ah-ah, the dance became an intriguing exploration of how vocalizations inspired movement for Zuk, who performed with Batsheva Dance Company in Israel from 2000 to 2009.
Otherworldly syllables induced a hitch of the shoulders and hips, and all of the syllables were very specific, highly coordinated when they were in unison. Music included techno sounds and the recorded laughter of children.
Cotler had the most strangely sexy swagger of the five dancers. After Chorus contained humor, too, as quickly uttered syllables had Highfield and Cotler running in tiny steps sideways. At another unusual moment, Lenington had his back to the audience as Sheaff and Bagley briefly rested their heads on either side of his hips.
The dance, which grew from GroundWorks’ first international residency, was so unusual I’d like to see it again.
The program ended with Shimotakahara’s Emergent, inspired by seemingly chaotic actions or events that create self-organizing order in nature. He dedicated the dance to Jack Katzenmeyer, GroundWorks’ board chair since 2003.
This dance began very slowly, the two women clad in black leotards with swaths of yellow or green color and the two men in coordinating unitards. In ever-shifting combinations of partners, dancers at one point butt heads.
When Bagley, Cotler and Sheaf finally began to gather in a circle, Lenington broke them up, scaring them off like frightened birds. The end of the dance was gripping, with tension building as the five disparate forces finally coalesced, gathering at center stage as they faced into a circle, arms out and heads back.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or email@example.com.