Transforming the ordinary into extraordinary links Melli Hoppe’s 10-year retrospective of four previous pieces and a new work. All explore turning sound and movements — that are embedded in restriction, repetition or embellishment — into performance.
Hoppe challenges audiences to alter our view of dance, how we think dancers should look and move, and what sounds they should move to. Hoppe equally erases the notion of identifying individual dancers for specific roles. It’s a group listed alphabetically by piece. To that end, the names of the two dozen fine company members will not be listed here.
While all the pieces strive to free us from preconceived dance language and all are layered within the rhythms and events of life, for this reviewer “Beauties” and “Tides” provided the most satisfying and provocative experience. Masks become the conceit of interaction for “Beauties.” The unmasking takes on heightened anxiety as the fifth, and eldest, dancer peels off seven layers from her face, as opposed to one each for the other four. The movement is fluidly executed to a variety of percussion and wind instruments played live by Anthony Artis.
In its range of elevations and pairings, the story takes us beyond the question of who we are, to who we become and are perceived to be. Posture is revelatory.
While this question of identity also drives “The Secret Life of Laura Petrie,” which is the most amusing of the pieces, Laura’s shallowness prompts one to wish it was a tad shorter, even though the dancers deliver the floor gymnastics superbly. Boring people do not become less so on stage.
“Tides,” on the other hand, is fascinating, with four figures teasing us to conjecture if it’s movement, motion, motility or mobility, in their process of changing place and position. And just when they lull us into thinking they are just so many layers of waves, they play with their strips of belts and shock us into cognizance. What is gagged? Is it our love-hate relationship with nature?
“Her Turnings,” based on excerpts from Grimms’ Fairy Tales, is a fractured text. Jan Aldridge Clark’s harp playing conjures imagery of an old-fashioned music box as five individuals move inside eerie circles of blue light that cast ugly shadows on faces mouthing inaudible words.
“Current,” a new work based on the journey of exploration by Lewis and Clark, is akin to cinematic imagery in arrested motion. A corps of 10 retells the trials and wonderment of a trek beyond imagination until you got there. That is perhaps the point of a Melli Hoppe program. It’s best to be there as a witness.
Throughout, the costumes by Laurel Foley and Wendy Meaden earn praise. Lighting was by Madeleine Sobota.