Curiosity fuels the mind and artistry of Ellen Sinopoli. The contemporary choreographer is never satisfied by her own thoughts and sensibilities; thus she reaches out to a sundry of artists and intellectuals to inspire her to go farther and explore deeper the framework of her creative impulses. And it works, producing a richer experience for her, her collaborators, her dancers and her audience.
Saturday night’s program at The Egg served as a prime example of Sinopoli’s fruitful partnerships. In an evening of four works, with a short, but lovely interlude with a select group of six young dance students, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company showed how musicians, artists and even a scientist spark Sinopoli’s imagination.
Among the four, as her Egg audiences have come to expect, was a premiere. “House of Fables” was produced with a commissioned score by tabla musician/composer Devesh Chandra. Seated center stage, with his drums and a string of jingling bells, Chandra and his music stealthily suspended time and steadily transported minds to a higher state. The dancers entered by walking reverently, one by one, on opposite ends of the stage. As they maneuvered on each side of Chandra, in symmetrical patterns, the pings and thuds of the percussive music grew more urgent, creating a tense push and pull among the sextet of dancers.
As the dance proceeded, warm and bright lights darkened from side to side until one half of the stage was shrouded in a dim cloud. A single dancer kicked and scooped up the space in the stage’s opposing hot polar light until she sprang forth into the shadows with her conspirators.
In a program note, Sinopoli wrote that “House of Fables” was about choosing a life’s path. It appeared, however, that it centered on exploring one’s darker side or life beyond death. Regardless, the combination of classical Indian tabla, played with a calm but fervid spirit and the striving for balance by the dancers, set up a dynamic replete with dilemmas — a topic always ripe for artistic treatment.
The program also included the powerful “Texture of the Whole,” a collaboration between Sinopoli and University at Albany physics professor Keith Earle. This was a fascinating creation in which the laws of physics were drawn out by the dancers themselves. In a series of collisions and constructions, the six dancers demonstrated vortex shedding, symmetry breaking, quantum beats, butterfly effects and many more concepts.
Of course, what made “Texture of the Whole” so marvelous, was its beauty, forcefulness and, to the unscientific mind, its alluring irrationality.
Sinopoli’s choreographic vision was further aroused by William Harper’s electroacoustic music and painter Calvin Grimm’s “Deep Ocean/Deep Space” series. She merged them in the turbulent “Sea Ghosts,” in which the five dancers tumbled like ocean waves tossing about a sixth dancer, plunging her into untold watery depths.
Lastly, her “Speaking Duchamp” took its cues from installation artists Michael Oatman and Ken Ragsdale’s “An Armory Show.” It was a respectful and enchanting nod to Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-made art” and his “Nude Descending a Staircase.”