Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dance Review: Above and Beyond Dance Lives up to the Name, Stepping up their Game in “Ascendance”

Above and Beyond Dance, Photo credit copyright by Julie LembergerIt is through the performance of “Ascendance” that the Above and Beyond Dance company strives to encapsulate and ascend the trials of this life, not excluding the difficulties faced in the dance world.  It is an admirable task this company tries to tackle-transforming circus arts, with their tradition of tricks for entertainment, into an expressive storyline of dance.

This evening’s performance features recurring themes of strength versus weakness, connectivity, distrust versus trust, overcoming struggle and limitations.  The diversity of the repertoire was brought together with the music by Nicholas Csicsko and Reinaldo Moya, blending one piece into the next.

The dancers made unique musical choices with the timing of their movements, the stilts sometimes adding a downbeat rhythm of their own.  In simple costumes, unitards with pants or skirt layered over, the dancer’s bodies are revealed for their diverse abilities.

To my eye, the stretchy quality of pants does little to disguise stilts underneath, which I personally find distracting from the dramatic magnificence of these height accentuated dancers.

Yet it was fun to see dancers roam about like ordinary people then whip out aerial maneuvers tangling and detangling in fabric.

Above and Beyond Dance brings more levels into dance physically from aerial acrobatics to stilts to the various levels of a leaping or crouching dancer.  Though vertically enhancing, the stilts pose movement challenges themselves, having a reputation of being intrinsically awkward with the ever present danger of falling.  The dancers of Above and Beyond Dance surprise the audience, eliciting gasps and murmurs with the difficult maneuvers they accomplish on stilts. With high kicks, the dancers send the stilts high into the air, then transition sliding dramatically into extra long splits, continuing to incorporate the stilts in modern dance floor movement combinations.  A thrilling moment occurs as one stilt dancer, and positioned far downstage directly in front of audience, fends off the other dancers charging towards her.  Her back muscles ripple, contoured by red lighting as she propels them backwards convulsing through the air.  Lost in an imaginary world, seemingly witnessing a mystical battle between a giant and little people, I almost forget my fright for the safety of the dancers.

Real Friends 336
The dancers show no fear of the apparatus, yet are able to convey fear and other emotions through their performance.  I am given the impression the dancers are stepping out into the unknown, peering over an abyss into the unknown.

Solid Dancers . . .

A beautiful duet between one stilt dancer and another dancer eloquently expresses tolerance and harmony between two very different beings.  In another work, attachment is explored between two people, connected by an umbilical like cord from the crown of each dancer’s head.  Is it the story of the growth and separation of Siamese twins?  Perhaps this is where such a metaphorical idea for the dance originated, but it lends itself well, opening the minds of the audience.

Imagery abounds in Above and Beyond dance, in one instance a dancer suspended in a silk hammock flails about like a fish caught in a net.  The lighting is beautiful, playing off the exposed walls of the one room box theater, casting silhouetted shapes that become flying dancers, otherworldly beings crawling up the walls.  The audience is left with one stunning image to finish the evening, women in billowing white skirts, soaring through space.  Breathtaking . . .

Above & Beyond Dance is a great starting point for dancers curious about aerial acrobatics and those looking to expand their modalities.

The company offers an intriguing glimpse at the creative possibilities of cross breeding movement genres.  Working in a collaborative style of choreographing and developing dance, several contributors create unique pieces fusing input from multiple sources, with artistic direction by Chriselle Tidrick.

Chriselle Tidrick describes the wonderful working relationship she has with her dancers: “One of the girls asked, ‘okay, what next?’  And I said, ‘Well, what I think it would be really cool if …and somehow, the dancers make it happen!”

Above and Beyond Dance is definitely worth keeping an eye on, as we all look forward to seeing what’s next!

iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Lea McGowan
Performance: “Ascendance” Above & Beyond Dance
Choreography: Chriselle Tidrick with collaboration from Madeline Hoak, Sharon LIvardo du Maine, Andrea Skurr, and Emily Smyth Vartanian
Composers: Nicholas Csicsko and Reinaldo Moya
Venue: The Flea Theater, Soho NYC
Performance Date: Thursday September 10, 2009

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