Dance: A Beautiful Thing

Area performers unite for 'Choreographers Without Companies'

Jun 8, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Jana Hatcher

Clockwise from center in rear: Jason Hatcher, Tricia Gelmini, Judith Mikita, Ashley Suttlar, Jeri Gatch, Diane Germaine, Michelle Bump and Rachel James.

For 13 years, adventurous choreographers and dancers have gathered fruitfully under the umbrella of Choreographers Without Companies, an intriguing season-closing round-up of engaging modern dance presented by Contemporary Dance Theater.

On Friday and Saturday, audiences can enjoy seven diverse new works from well-regarded area professionals, including CWC veterans and newcomers who don't maintain year-round companies, supported by the technical capabilities of the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Nearly 30 musicians and dancers will perform in the typical kaleidoscope of styles.

For instance, Diane Germaine and Michelle Bump have drawn on the stylings of violinist Alicia Svigals and tsmiblist Pete Rushefsky, well-known Klezmer musicians who will play live onstage with 10 dancers in Monologue and Little Deaths.

"The music evokes its roots in Jewish, gypsy (Roma), Turkish and Eastern European tradition," Germaine says. "Renee McCafferty plays a sort of narrator through the five parts of the story, which is multi-layered and variously nostalgic, quirky and maybe a little sad. One interpretation is that she might be an artist dealing in midlife remembrances of people she has known."

Judith Mikita has fashioned Leonardo's Dream, inspired by Eric Whitacre's choral composition Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine.

"It's a nine-minute sprint for seven dancers," Mikita says, "with a lot of lifting, soaring and throwing of bodies, which we rehearsed for safety in a gymnastics facility. Part of my process has been to have a family of dancers, and when they move they're not necessarily doing the same thing but are unified by their intent, like individual voices in a choir.

I generated movement by thinking about the way in which we as human beings achieve moments of understanding and clarity that put things in perspective."

Choreographer Jeri Gatch enjoys the annual chance to reconnect with the Cincinnati dance community.

"It's time to reassess and touch base," says Gatch, whose whimsical SO-FAr is cast for two couples including first time dancer Rick Beard, a second degree black belt in tai kwan do recruited for his energy. There's a red leather couch which "also moves quite a bit," Gatch says. "I started with the idea of the light, happy feeling you get when you have friends from out of town and you go out. You come home, the kids go to bed and there's that last hour you talk on the couch, when you really get to visit."

Another longtime CWC participant is Tricia Gelmini, who's drawn especially on her connections with Yellow Springs-based dancers.

"In The Longings of the Soles of My Feet, I speak a monologue about finding my place in the world," she says. "I'm dancing with an awesome group of five dancers."

Gelmini has choreographed to traditional Serbian Brass music by Goran Bregovic. "There's trumpet, tuba, and the music is heavily percussive," she says. "One piece I've included begins sweetly and mournfully, but it explodes and becomes super fast. We definitely have quick feet going! I've also included some aerial partnering where my cast takes risks."

Choreographer Rachel James presents (I wanna tell you 'bout) my good thing, three linked solos and a group finale set to lively Jazz music.

"It's fluid, there are a lot of comings and goings," she says of her cast of three. "The first solo emphasizes footwork, the second is more gestural and in the third the hips initiate the movements. I expect audiences to come away with the sense that these are good friends or collaborators who experience the same joy in movement — individual voices that can harmonize."

Two solos round out the program. Jason Hatcher will perform Low Horizons, a look at the difficulty of escaping ennui, and area newcomer Ashley Suttlar, relocated from Philadelphia, will dance her Soulsurfacing, examining archetypes.

Mikita seems to sum up the good feelings about the group collaboration when she says of Leonardo's Dream, "I think we are accomplishing a really beautiful thing here: To have our work transpire and transform the stage."

CHOREOGRAPHERS WITHOUT COMPANIES is presented at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater.