In the past 25 years, choreographer Ellen Sinopoli created more than 75 works. And some of her best were on display Friday night at The Egg where her Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company celebrated its silver anniversary with a stellar, glowing retrospective of some of her best creations.
These fine dances — among them the Latin inspired “Sandungera,” the bluesy “Rising Low” and the electric “Filament” — resonated when they were premiered more than a decade ago. Yet these works were elevated to another level, one where the audience sat motionless in attention, because of her dancers. Truly, this was the most cohesive and technically able ensemble that Sinopoli has ever enjoyed. And the works, translated through their bodies, were sharper, more animated and thus more striking.
While the sextet was at their best, the threat loomed that this glorious close-knit group could crumble. That’s because it was dancer Marie Klaiber’s final performance with the company. After five years with Sinopoli, she has emerged as one of its strongest with a face and form that audiences always looked forward to seeing.
To commemorate her last curtain call, Sinopoli staged her sublime solo “Becoming” on Klaiber. The piece, from 2005, swung between sensuous-exotic to prayerful. To a commissioned score by Zoe B. Zak, the dance swept up Klaiber in windstorms from which she emerged bewildered but calm. Clearly the work was about seeking, either answers or purpose, and Klaiber performed it with honesty and tenderness.
The special night also included the world premiere of “Tumble,” to Terry Riley’s two-handed piano piece “Etude for the Old Country” as played by ZOFO. The first thing the audience saw, when the curtain rose, was Sara Senecal in an elegant pose wearing a beautiful gold and silver costume by Kim Vanyo. In an open back bodice and palazzo-style pants, Senecal radiated sophistication before she even moved a muscle.
Clearly, the music inspired Sinopoli’s romp of tilting, rollicking and rolling moves that sent Senecal and then the rest of the ensemble on a journey that was at times lively and others sedate.
Senecal captivated at the ending too. As the others sprawled flat on the floor, she turned about in eerie silence until she joined the others, draping her body among theirs.
Sinopoli also intuitively featured her one male dancer — the statuesque Andre Robles — to fine effect. Rather than trying to incorporate him into synchronized group sections, which she did some of, she raised him up in solos and as partner to the women over whom he towers. His height alone makes him stand out, so capitalizing on that placed Robles in a more comfortable and astute, at least to the eye, position.
While “Tumble” was enjoyable, the three older works were stunners. The lively “Sandungera,” the evening’s opener with music that spanned the rhythms of tango, rhumba and salsa, warmed up the audience for more. “Rising Low,” for the five women of the company, broke hearts with its wrenching songs that depicted life on the edge. The ensemble piece “Filament,” to music by Donald Knaack, dazzled with its stark, robotic and syncopated moves.
In addition, a group of five teenage dancers joined the company for “Penumbra,” which was choreographed by Senecal. Featuring local teens has become a staple for Sinopoli’s Egg concerts and one that is wise and welcome as it builds audiences and showcases the area’s future talent.
But the most important thing about Sinopoli’s 25th anniversary was not The Egg retrospective, but the reflection inspired. Judging from the large crowd, dance audiences recognized and acknowledged she and her dancers are an artistic treasure, one the region must cherish.