Dance Through the Ages

Written By ArtBurst Team
January 30, 2017 at 7:17 PM

What does an evil ballerina, a dancing fish, President Obama, medieval woodcuts, and a horde of bumbling economic advisors have to do with dance? Momentum Dance Company found a way to answer that question with its season kick-off performance “Dance, Glorious Dance,” during Festival Miami at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall at the University of Miami. The evening formed an eclectic package that can sum up the company’s strengths through its 28-year run. It featured new and established works directed by Delma Iles, founder and artistic director of Momentum, including both serious and humorous pieces Cobia, Negotiation, Obanamomics, and Requiem. Also in the line-up: a work choreographed to the composition Window, by Frost School of Music faculty member Dennis Kam, inspired by the paintings of Joan Miró; and Doris Humphrey’s pioneering Water Study — a pivotal historic piece of modern dance from 1928. According to Iles, “Water Study is one of the most successful attempts to take the body to pure abstraction.” She says that the choreography of Water Study is based on different movements of water: waves crashing on shore, river flows, tides, swells, splashing — the eternal ebb and flow of H2O. The movements are so fluid, in fact, that one of dancers remarked that what she learned in Water Study is that she couldn’t rely on anything she already knew about dance. This work “gives the audience context and a historical perspective of modern dance,” explains Iles. “It also shows how dancers grow artistically and learn through history.” “Dance, Glorious Dance” fuses elements of prose and the ephemeral magic of poetry throughout the works. For example, in Cobia, Iles re-conceptualizes the story of a traumatic childhood fishing experience and narrates it through movement. At 13, Iles caught a giant cobia fish with her brother and struggled for hours reeling it in. The fish, however, was so big that the captain shot it in the head before it was pulled aboard. In Cobia, one dancer plays the fish, the boat, the water, the rod, and the reel. The dancer’s body is also sometimes two things at once, a hybrid of sorts—the rod and the water, the water and the fish. Devin Marsh, also from the Frost School of Music, composed the jazzy, boat-rocking music. In Negotiation, however, Iles invites the audience to let go of the need for a story and give in to the moment. This work is an evocative, emotional, image-driven work that focuses on movement and the idea of transformation. The work plays with choreographic structure, juxtaposing images of bare trees with rhythmic patterns and angular movements that increase in complexity, and builds upon set patterns of walking, turning, and stopping. It accumulates to a point where the dance changes and becomes something unpredictable. The unfolding of the work suggests an evolution and mirrors the way we negotiate our way through life. During the process of creating the piece, Iles worked with a concerto by Handel that was later mostly removed. Now, only a fragment remains. In her laugh-out loud work, Obanamomics, Iles weaves through social commentary. Conceived during the economic crisis of 2008, Obamanomics satirizes the economic crisis yet sympathizes with the suffering of regular Joes and Janes. The titles of the sections are funny and self-explanatory: Tightening The Belt and Stretching the Budget, Fanny and Freddie, Golden Parachute, Bubble Burst, and Economic Advisors, where each dancer is one such advisor and goes through the motions of a fancy economic plan. Harkening back several centuries, the movements of Requiem are based on the gestures depicted in medieval woodcuts, a nod to the director’s love of art history. It is performed to French composer Gabriel Fauré’s own haunting “lullaby of death,” or requiem. In keeping wit the thread of visual art, for Window Iles brings Miró’s paintings “Girl Evading,” “Woman and Bird,” “Man and Bird,” and “Women Escaping” to life through dance. “Window is choreographed from images drawn from these simple yet complex paintings,” Iles says. “They have been expanded upon to become movements.” “Dance, Glorious Dance” bodes well for the upcoming season from Momentum, which will continue in the new year with a schedule soon to be finalized. At least some of the premiered “Glorious” performances will be repeated during the Miami Dance Festival in May. In the meantime, Momentum Dance will have two performances during the children’s book fair at the Miami Book Fair International on Nov. 19 and 20; check out for more information.

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