Saturday’s Next Move: Festival of Modern Dance was staged a bit differently this year. Rather than showcasing four companies over two nights, Proctors condensed the evening to three companies in one night, with lectures and food to sustain the audience in between performances.
While the change likely saved Proctor’s some money, the evening spanned too many hours (5:30 to 10 p.m.), which meant that too many left early, missing the jewels that this event always mines.
Curated by the area’s own consummate modern choreographer, Ellen Sinopoli, the annual event is unique; and thus always worth taking in. The only place one would see Israeli-born/Berlin-based choreographer Lior Shneior’s narrative work or the New York-based Project 44’s all-male brashness is Jacob’s Pillow or Kaatsbaan International Dance Center — the region’s exclusive dance houses.
But here they were, not only performing premieres for the audience, but interacting with them between performances in q-and-a-style lectures and at the loaded down, gourmet food table.
The evening also offered up a redesign of Sinopoli’s own “Speaking Duchamp,” a piece that paid homage to Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Made to accompany a Michael Oatman installation for the Opalka Gallery at Sage College, Sinopoli successfully reimagined it for the stage. To music by Joan Hightower, the resulting dance was one of Sinopoli’s boldest yet.
The evening opened with “Little Pinks,” choreographed by Shneior, a staging of Damon Runyon’s story of a nightclub busboy in love with its star performer. When her ambitions for a well-heeled man landed her at the bottom of a staircase with a broken spine, Little Pinks took care of her. And when she died, he took out revenge on the 7-foot-tall man who destroyed her.
The tale was depicted with a cool, dark directness. Shneior made it so in his roles as the heartless brute who destroyed the singer/dancer as well as the narrative’s puppet master. Carrying a backpack with costumes and props, he stepped in to illuminate actions and roles. But for the most part, he sat in a chair watching the story unfold, as a motionless, and emotionless, spectator of this sad tale.
An audio reading of the story was hardly necessary as dancers Andrew Champlin, as the heart-sick busboy, and Christy Williams, as the club performer, made their every intention clear.
Gierre Godley’s “Fraternity,” for his all-male group Project 44, explored relationships of another kind — those of men whose conflicts and competitions bind camaraderie.
The piece began with four at military attention while Mike Abbatiello crawled about their feet, seemingly wounded. His legs wobbled and slid from beneath him and he dragged his body along the floor. When he finally managed his footing, by leaning on another, the dance for five was launched.
The best moments were the duet, in which Zachary Denison and Aaron R. White sized each other up and sparred, and the subsequent trio with Abbatiello, Timothy Herian and Stanton Jacinto, where Jacinto suffered the odd man out indignities.
While the energy was strong and passionate, these Project 44 dancers surprised with their liquidity. Even their sharp edges were as smooth as a sensei’s.
The evening concluded with Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company’s remix of the daring “Speaking Duchamp.” Layered with the sensational sweeping score and Oatman’s video rendering of Duchamp’s painting, this dance yielded an authentic, eye-popping celebration of modernism.