Dutch troupe’s ‘Sporen’ challenges, confounds, intrigues at Egg show

“Sporen” is a study in contrasts — loud and soft, fast and slow, ancient and modern, and fluid and s
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“Sporen” is a study in contrasts — loud and soft, fast and slow, ancient and modern, and fluid and sharp.

These incongruities feed an inherent drama to this blunt contemporary dance from the Dutch ensemble Leine & Roebana. These shifts in mood and look, however, do not translate into an attention-grabber of a dance. Rather, the work, as seen on Sunday night at The Egg, comes off as clinical, curious, but hardly enjoyable.

Certainly, “Sporen,” Dutch for traces, exemplifies Europe’s contemporary dance world, which is more concerned with concept than audience entertainment. This bothers Americans who want to be entertained. They walk away and wonder what and why.

Yet if one pays detailed attention to the unfolding of “Sporen,” it would be clear that the choreographers, Andrea Leine and Harijono Roebana, create a world in which every action builds on what came before and informs what goes next. And it all culminates to shape the final, bustling outcome.

The work was performed by seven fine dancers, strong and articulate. It opened with one dancer who looked to be in flight. He rolled about the floor with a liquid, organic flow and then he rose and ran, arms wide and extended, head held high. He moved like an eagle to an angelic voice in a prayerful prelude.

Yet this glorious solo was interrupted by a harsh crashes of earsplitting guitar and drums. A woman entered a rectangle of light in which she flopped around. Heads, arms, legs, feet and torso were disjointed. She looked like a marionette that had its strings in a tangle.

Her part, which was repeated several times throughout, gave way to a mesmerizing section in which three women rippled like seaweed billowing under the water or wheat waving in the wind. Standing firmly, their bodies undulated as piano harmonies washed gently over them.

Three men joined in and they began to shuffle in asymmetrical patterns. However, while they shared the same space, they never touched — adding a dash of cool to what was otherwise deliciously alluring.

With each section, new movement was added — kicks, then spins, then falls. Throughout, touches of what came before always remained.

Repetition threatened to deaden “Sporen.” But when eyes started to glaze, the loud music once again blasted and screeched, reawakening the dulled senses.

The accumulation of movement (something Trisha Brown was wont to do) was intriguing. So too were the musical choices, which swung from Baroque to a deafening din. But there were times that the stark “Sporen” lacked spark. “Sporen” either absorbed with its naturalistic sensations or bored like a mathematical equation.

What saved “Sporen” from mediocrity was the dancers themselves. They were completely committed to it, dutifully attacking the movement with a focus that bordered on obsessive. The devotion was appreciated. And it left me convinced that Leine & Roebana’s artistry deserves another look. Let’s hope it gets one here.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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