The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company will present two premieres of just-completed works at its annual performance at The Egg on Friday.
With more than two decades of work with the company behind her, artistic director Ellen Sinopoli is still producing dances that challenge audiences emotionally while delighting them visually, with a variety of styles and subject matter within a single performance.
“I don’t like people to come to my concerts and, if they’ve seen one of the dances, they know what the rest of the concert is going to be like,” Sinopoli said. She likes variety, contrast and balance so that audiences can have a multitude of experiences during a performance.
Her choreography is often inspired by or heavily influenced by music, and audiences will experience a range of it from country and blues to electro-acoustic scores.
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday; preconcert talk at 7:15 p.m.
WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany
HOW MUCH: $24; $20 for seniors, $12 for children; student rush tickets available one hour before show
MORE INFO: 473-1845, www.theegg.org
“I’m very driven by music,” she said.
John Adams selections
One of the premieres is “To Sing, Laugh, Play,” set to selections from “John’s Book of Alleged Dances” by contemporary classical composer John Adams.
She happened to hear Adams’ music on WAMC and the conductor commenting on conducting the work. “I decided it would be exciting and challenging and rewarding to create a dance to his music,” she said, noting that the result is very much like the title of the work, which is marked by a great deal of athleticism and serendipitous movements. Costumes, which look like athletic running suits cut off at mid-thigh, are in all different bright colors and augment the upbeat feeling of the piece.
The other debut, “Sea Ghosts,” started out having nothing to do with the ocean. “ ‘Sea Ghosts’ really took a fairly convoluted path in its development,” Sinopoli said. She started out thinking she wanted to create a piece about the unpredictability of our own physical bodies and what happens as we age.
But after hearing William Harper’s electro-acoustic music on his album “The Gallowing Sea,” her idea of the piece began to shift. The music had ocean sounds in it, which influenced the unfolding of this work. “It began to take on the feel of something from under the ocean,” she said. “It has a lot of kind of very unique shapes and movements and manipulations . . . . You’ll see the components of these sea ghosts controlling and manipulating the person.”
All six of the dancers in her company take part in this piece, which they had an opportunity to work on during a residency dedicated to creative time in December at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli.
It was during the residency that visual artist Calvin Grimm saw the company perform. “He was very intrigued by the idea of working together,” Sinopoli said.
Not wasting any time, the two selected a work from Grimm’s “Deep Ocean/Deep Space” series that will be projected to the size of 15 by 20 feet as a backdrop for “Sea Ghosts” by means of a rear projection system.
“It’s full of all the swirls and energy and movements and all the things I wanted to create,” said Sinopoli, who is known for her collaborations with artists of different media, including photography and sculpture. Other paintings from the “Deep Ocean/Deep Space” series will be on display in the Hart lobby through March 23.
Sinopoli keeps a notebook of phrases that she reads, hears or dreams as inspiration for some of her works, which served as the spark for another piece in the program, “Oh My . . .,” which features five dances in various moods set to the album “Appalachia Waltz” by Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor and Yo-Yo Ma. The piece is based on the idea that the phrase “oh my” can take on vastly different meanings depending on the way it is spoken. “Depending on how you say it — it could be surprised, embarrassed, shocked or angry, just by your inflection in the voice,” Sinopoli said. The works reflect this, as they range from a piece with fast-paced energetic moves like kicks, jumps and splits to a quiet solo.
“Rising Low” is also on the program. In this five-part piece, Sinopoli uses blues by Otis Taylor and country music by Iris DeMent to tell the story of five poverty-stricken women who struggle to gain strength for themselves. Although the music has a strong, masculine voice, Sinopoli didn’t want any men in the piece.
“It comes from a life that never offers you the opportunity to be gentle or to do more with yourselves other than work in a factory, where you have lots of babies, eat in a diner, and get a 10th-grade education,” she said. “That’s as far as your life allows you to go.” The work has a dramatic air as it portrays the desperation of the women who find themselves in this situation.
The 2003 piece “Falling” was commissioned by The Egg to celebrate the venue’s 25th anniversary. When originally performed, it was accompanied by the music of guitarist Maria Zemantauski and percussionist Brian Melick. The piece is particularly appropriate for this performance, as ESDC celebrates its 20th anniversary as the resident company at The Egg.
Sinopoli describes the relationship as “quite significant.” She had just started the dance company a year before it became The Egg’s resident company. The Egg has provided rehearsal and administrative space, presented the company in concert, and allowed the dancers to perform with live music. “I think the fact that we were the resident company was very helpful to us,” she said. “It has been a very critical aspect of our ability to continue and develop.”