Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review: suchu dance Impluvium

Impluvium is a piece for four dancers and 100 light bulbs.

Though it starts slowly, with predictible movements, the work comes alive when Suchu Dance choreographer Jennifer Wood allows each performer to add his own character to her familiar dance vocabulary.

Rachel Hodos seems possessed in her spell-binding solo, as if she’s getting orders from an unnamed source. She’s marvelous to watch, and even she looks surprised by the movements she makes. Her fluidity and naturalness bring density to Wood’s signature loose limbs and unfinished phrases.

Hodos’ duet with Suchu veteran Dana Wessale Crawford goes a step farther. They dance as if the floor were coming out from under them, as if moved by invisible forces that push, pull, tug and yank.

Corian Ellisor breaks off into a sultry self-involved solo, caressing the air like a lover, fully relishing his private moment.

Ellisor’s muscular approach brings a more controlled tone to Wood’s choreography.

Wood defaults into routine moves when the dancers perform together; those sections also lack the crispness and inventiveness of the more engaging solo and duet passages.

Newcomer Kristen Frankiewicz finally gets to bust loose in the dance’s stirring final seconds, when she scrabbles — B-boy style— in a flurry of ground-level leg kicks, as if desperately trying to get a last bit of movement in.

The score varies from sound effects of gurgling water to techno grooves. The costumes, which are changed often, consist of loose pants and tops that shift from all orange, to all white, to off-the-shoulder draped velor.

As to the meaning of it all, it’s best to let Wood’s work spill over you like a kinetic poem.

An impluvium is the basin placed in the atrium of ancient Roman dwellings to collect rainwater. In Wood’s hands, it’s more of a basin to catch movement — lots of it

And those lightbulbs? Designed by Jeremy Choate, the pulsing rows of suspended red, blue and green bulbs make a dance of their own, sometimes seemingly rowdier than the action below.

They create a kind of wild, volatile ceiling that compresses the space, hovering over the dancers with a slightly ominous presence.

Though at times, the pulsing goes on too long and looks like a kitschy holiday display in a 1970s disco.

Reprinted from The Houston Chronicle.