Last year, Beth Fecteau, artistic director of Nacre Dance Company, had a great idea.
Rather than saturate her company with historic works, for which it is known, and her own creations, she decided to reach out to choreographers at large. She did so in a clever way. Rather than have a private call for choreographers, she produced a show — “So You Think You Can Choreograph.” The winners of her show, staged at Proctors, would either go on to produce a dance for her company or present their winning works with their chosen dancers.
This past weekend, the winners from “So You Think You Can Choreograph” went on display at Nacre’s annual spring concert. Staged at the Spa Little Theatre, the program demonstrated that there are plenty of artists out there who want to express themselves through dance. And kindly, Fecteau gave three of them a chance, on her home stage, to hone their craft.
The problem is this — it’s difficult to impossible to create a program that looks unified. Nacre tried with a theme of the natural world, an ode to wind, water, stars and snow. Fecteau further attempted to tie the program into a lovely package with Marilyn McCabe’s sweet, atmospheric poetry that served as interludes between dances.
But the disparate sensibilities of each of the works had viewers wondering who and what they would see next — Nacre or some other ensemble.
Of five dances shown, there were four new works: “Seasons” by Fecteau, “There, They’re, Their” by Kailey McCrudden (both danced by Nacre); “Fellow Travellers” choreographed and performed by Brett Cox; and “Avalanche” choreographed by Christian Serrano and Sarah Foster and danced by New York City’s Moveworks.
Let’s consider the Nacre pieces first. McCrudden’s piece was a lively work that relied on hand gesture to carry it through. Deb Rutledge, Nacre’s most seasoned and accomplished performer, was defined as a separate being from the others including McCrudden. In the end, they clustered as if fighting for space and then they galloped off-stage as if riding horses. Perhaps McCrudden was trying to personify the title “There, They’re, Their,” but mainly it was bewildering.
Fecteau’s “Seasons,” featuring the creamy musical duo Ria Curley (vocals) and Chuck Lamb (keyboard), made a lot more sense. Audiences could follow the four seasons, from spring to winter, while enjoying the colorful, original music of the live duet.
Johnny Martinez unified the seasons by running in and out of the spring rain, the summer sun, the falling leaves and the winter snow. Unfortunately, some of the choreographed lifts he performed looked awkward for both Martinez and the dancers. They were obviously struggling, which is never a pleasant thing to watch.
Also ungainly were the four dancers who twirled out in winter, wrapped in blown up bubbles. They looked silly and obscured the pas de deux between Martinez and Isabella Underwood.
Let’s move along to Cox’s solo, “Fellow Travellers.” This was performed completely on a darkened stage. While it seemed like he was a dynamic and fine dancer, the audience was frustrated by not being able to really experience him.
Yes, the piece was about fear of the dark. And it included a string of lights that he wrapped around himself and swirled about. (They might have malfunctioned because they came on and off at curious times.) But Cox must remember that audiences fear the dark. Moreover, they loathe it. They want to see the dance.
Finally, Serrano and Foster’s “Avalanche” felt like an otherworldly romp. The well-sculpted members of Moveworks, obviously New York City professionals, flagged Nacre dancers’ flaws.
In the future, maybe all the winning choreographers should work with Nacre solely. Juxtaposing a New York company with the Saratoga Springs ensemble does not end well for our local dancers.