The debut performances of the sparkling new company BRIAH DANSE under the Artistic Direction of Jayne Persch utilized dancer talent and artistic/stylistic flexibility to expand definitions and experiences of dance. While there was clearly balletic foundation for the choreography and shaping of general visual effect, the result was quite non-traditional. Some segments were more fully recognizable as contemporary dance or neoclassical ballet but, for the most part, a kind of overlap and fusion of classical and modern influences occurred.
The stunning aerial piece by guest artist Liam LeFey, powerfully performed with Associate Artistic Director/Ballet Mistress Jennifer DePalo-Peterson, could have felt out of place in the program as the only event of its kind. However, while it was certainly a standout, it also presented as simply another way to employ the consistent threads of strength, grace and beauty apparent throughout the production. With that in mind, young dancer Ada Peruzzi’s later contribution to the performance was entirely apropos.
While guest artist Vincent Hardy’s own choreography was to the modern end of the spectrum, he also slipped seamlessly into apparently effortless traditional lifts and forms in other pieces. When he lifted other dancers it looked as easy for him as brushing a snowflake away is for me. Dance has been referred to as a passionate art form, and Hardy literally embodies that. Likewise, Melissa Maydances from a place of fire, and the two made a great pair.
In various ways, there was great use made of bodies as elements of a visual composition. The movements of each individual body were precise and attractive on their own, but there were additional shapes, lines, and illusory figures created by the placement of bodies in relation to each other. From my seat in the middle of the second row, I was close enough to the stage to sense a layering of multiple perspectives. The sensual aspect of the dancers’ bodies, the minutiae of fingers and toe positioning, the illusion itself, and the whole stage action all came together in my eyes and mind.
The audience enjoyed the self-deprecating humor of the dancers of A Bit of Bach. It was a real treat to enjoy the playing of cellist Julia Emery live on stage during this piece. She was as much of a good sport as the other performers about having a little fun at the expense of an outdated and artificial social system. This was the most overt example of dancers interacting with each other and the audience, but not the only incidence. Like the emphasis on breath, uses of occasional silence, and the focus on the sounds bodies make moving through the world, this indicates a fresh and human-centered take on dance and performance.
If you missed your chance to see BRIAH DANSE perform this past weekend on February 7th and 8th at The Dairy Center for the Arts, visit BRIAH's website for information about other upcoming dates and events.