It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company took its first bow at The Egg. Yet on Friday night, Artistic Director Ellen Sinopoli and her small band of six dancers celebrated that fact with two world premieres. And while these two new works, “Sea Ghosts” and “To Sing, Laugh, Play,” do not stand as the choreographer’s best creations, they do signal that this troupe, which calls The Egg its home, has the will and the stamina to survive in the roughest of artistic environments.
That said, Sinopoli has her challenges — mainly that she does not have a large pool of dancers to draw from. Therefore, her dancers must be vessels of tireless energy. And they are, most dancing in every piece.
Certainly, Sinopoli has been able to cultivate a unity among her dancers. While they suffer slightly from poor timing, which make some phrases within the dances look cluttered, the dancers share a look and sensibility. Andre Robles, the sole man, has come a long way in this manner, blending better than he did. But he still needs to let the long limbs loose. He holds back a bit too much.
The five women, on the other hand, are consistently spectacular. This is most notable in “Rising Low,” the bluesy dance in which the hardships of living crush their spirits. This is Sinopoli at her most narrative, and it’s wonderful as it taps into the soul of her dancers. The piece demonstrates that they are more than superb athletes. They are artists too.
Sinopoli draws on this ability in “Sea Ghosts,” which is set to an electronic score by William Harper and is adorned with a projection of a swirling painting by Calvin Grimm. The work, centered on Claire Jacob-Zysman, is a plunge into Neptune’s colorful universe. The movement is murky and churning. Jacob-Zysman emerges as a creature caught up in an undertow, personified by the other dancers. As they pull her down and around, she undulates, seeking to break free from its grip. But it’s allure and/or power eventually ravage her. The look and feel of “Sea Ghosts” are lovely. But it lacks the commitment to make it convincing. Perhaps it requires a few more performances to perfect it.
“To Sing, Laugh, Play,” to music by John Adams, starts out joyously with Melissa George kicking up her heels and rolling about the floor. She ends her freewheeling solo, flat and bouncing on her belly and wiggling her bottom. The good humor continues with Jacob-Zysman and Robles in a playful duet with Sara Senecal and Laura Teeter racing around them happily. Unfortunately, the exuberance does not translate beyond its beginnings, despite the best efforts. Perhaps the intimacy of the group fails to pack the wallop that Sinopoli strives for.
The dancers do achieve moments of perfection in the opener, “Oh My.” George and Teeter are flowing, comely angels in the first section, while Jacob-Zysman, Robles and Senecal look to be on a sumptuous evening stroll in the second part. The spell is upset with the jazzy third section to Edgar Meyer’s “Schizoozy.”
In all, Sinopoli’s pieces start out great, but often lose steam near the end. The solution might be simply to hire more dancers. Then those big finishes could be achieved. Unfortunately, finances dictate. And in today’s climate, survival in the arts alone is something to celebrate.