GroundWorks’ Akron premiere of the new dance CoDa was an experience in emotional contrasts Friday evening at Akron’s Main Library, ranging from fierce and foreboding to jaunty and humorous.
The dance, which the Cleveland-based company commissioned by Israeli-born choreographer Ronen Koresh, is set to the arresting music of French composer Rene Aubry. The piece started out with the five-member company, dressed in black and white, executing a cute, sexy, joyful dance to accordion music. The opening evoked a Jewish folk dance with a cool modern spin, a theme that bookended the ?seven-section dance.
A moment in a duet between Felise Bagley and Gary Lenington teased the audience as Bagley dived under Lenington’s legs in a slick movement that made you think for a second she was going to pull his pants down. The humorous vibe was threaded through another duet between Damien Highfield and Sarah Perrett, who, clad in black and white stripes, cavorted to the popping beat of the song Chaloupee.
Koresh’s dance turned dark with a solo by Katie Taylor, who alternated between trying to smile and appearing agitated as she put her palms to her head. In a particularly eerie moment, Taylor looked over her shoulder at the audience and then covered her mouth with her hand, pulling her head to look toward the back of the stage.
CoDa turned raw and full-blooded in a ferocious, threatening section that had Bagley, Highfield, Taylor and Lenington alternating couples. The aggressive, tension-building piece had an extreme, quick physicality that included dancers manhandling each other, pushing and pulling. In one such combination, Highfield laid Bagley down on the floor, rolled her over multiple times, leapt over her, lay on his back and lifted her body up with his feet.
Creating new works that challenge both the dancers and audiences is a core part of GroundWorks’ mission, so it’s always exciting to see what this company will offer next. GroundWorks kept the program moving nonstop with a wide range of works that also included repeat performances of the mechanical precision of Valence as well as the sass and joyfulness of Hindsight, inspired by the music of Akron’s own Chrissie Hynde.
The rotating movement and wind and chime sound effects of Valence were again captivating, with dancers constantly repelling and attracting each other in a manner that evoked ever-efficient cogs in a wheel.
Each time you watch this dance, by GroundWorks artistic associate Amy Miller, you pick up on more thrilling moments. In one, Perrett remained en pointe as Highfield lowered her into a backbend that ended with her in a backward table-like position, staring intently into his face the whole time.
Valence, which premiered at the Akron Ice House in 2009, didn’t have the same spooky effect at the library as it did at the dank industrial space with soaring brick walls. Dennis Dugan’s remarkable lighting patterns had a much more dramatic effect on the walls of the raw old Ice House.
A reprise of Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Hindsight, first seen in Akron last summer at the Heinz Poll Dance Festival, was the perfect way to end an evening of dance in Chrissie Hynde’s hometown. It’s a delightful crowd-pleaser, with the whole cast dressed in hot black club wear in numbers from the iconic My City Was Gone to Brass in Pocket.
The dance is full of humor and whimsy, from Taylor’s ultra-diva in a tutu in Rosalee to the two-timer Perrett doing a two-step with the guys in Love’s a Mystery. Bagley remains unforgettable in Hymn to Her, too, Taylor-Corbett’s dance of somber beauty that enveloped the dancer in a huge, sweeping swath of crepe de chine perfectly manipulated by Highfield and Lenington.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.