Dance Now! Miami, led by artistic directors Hannah Baumgarten and Diego Salterini, presented “Fall for Dance Now!” featuring the world premiere of “Random Patterns of Falling Leaves” last weekend, kicking off the season. Taking inspiration from their memories of fall in the American northeast and Salterini’s native Italy, the directors created a temperamental and moody landscape with quiet, anxious moments always resting on the edge of turbulent and exhilarating sweeps of movement.
With costumes by Marilyn Skow, lighting by Bruce Brown, and musical selections from Arvo Part, Philip Glass, and Einaudi, the piece is a choreographic translation of both the mood and movement of autumn leaves caught in the wind as they roll and toss about. “You either see the leaves or you see the wind,” says Baumgarten — an idea made evident as the dancers each moved in canon, first gently then fiercely as if caught on the lips of a breeze. With flung bodies and appendages, the dancers brought to life a tangible but invisible force. Motifs of spirals seen in piqué turns with contracted upper bodies resonated in the ensemble’s sweeping circular patterns.
Contemplative trios and solos gave a sense of a lament or inevitability, with dynamic partnering and lifts; and deliberately slow arabesques reached out in opposing directions to an unknown fate. At other times the company of six would briefly land collectively in strong diagonals, only to disburse again in an ever-increasing, frenetic pace.
The stage and lighting design by Brown was crucial to the directors’ “tone poem” to autumn. The curtain opened on the downstage scrim with a projection of trees and leaves. It soon faded to reveal a stark stage minimally but perfectly set with paper lanterns hanging like celestial bodies against an endless black space with no discernable backdrop. Modestly lit as if at dusk, the stage was washed in subdued autumnal colors and patterns of leaves. Skow’s costumes were rich layers of embroidery on loose, flowing robes draped over tunics awash in red-orange, brown, crimson, forest, and lichen green.
As the piece progresses, the dancers gradually shed layers of the costume — first the adorning robes to reveal their tunics and pants, and ultimately finishing in flesh-colored tights leaving the dancers bare as branches in winter. At this point the dancers reach a climactic frenzy before resolving into a disquieting denouement as the dancers run out one at a time. They leave a bare stage with the final resonating image of actual leaves falling from the realm of the celestial orbs above.
The program also featured five pieces from the company’s repertory, including the white wash in cotton and prairie dresses of “Chronicles,” whose grand pendulum of lifts, rhythms, and counterpoint defined the wide-open plains. Soloist Cristiane Silva masterfully performed “FloatingFlyingFalling,” accompanied by a Pink Floyd selection. She created an intense, harrowing inner dialogue, as she contorted, pushed, stretched and writhed in the confines of a four-sided box defining both the finite in space and in her struggle.
“Speaking Sweetly” was a playful, light piece with the sprite-like trio of Colleen Barnes, Jenny Hegarty, and Megan Holsinger. “Magic Hour,” a beautiful and fluid solo performed by Dariel Milan, conveyed a subtle vulnerability and intimacy with each caress of his face and bare chest. And finally “Court Dance,” set to primal excerpts from Peter Gabriel and the Japanese percussion group Kodo, was an amazingly disturbing battle. Danced with palpable violence and dressed in faceless white masks and sleek black suits, the piece was lit hauntingly by Brown in silhouette or in blood red and cool blue.
“Fall for Dance Now!” was performed by Dance Now! Miami at the Colony Theatre, Miami Beach, on Oct. 29 and 30.
Photo credit: Jenny Abreu
This article was first published in the Miami Sun Post.