FRINGE 2021 REVIEW: Biodance at Home

Rochester, New York-based contemporary dance company Biodance utilized outdoor spaces for creative expression. Each segment showcases dancers interacting with or mirroring nature in varying ways.

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click to enlarge Poster for "Biodance at Home" - Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Poster for "Biodance at Home"

Like many of us during the pandemic, Rochester, New York-based contemporary dance company Biodance utilized outdoor spaces for creative expression. This virtual show — Biodance at Home — features a collection of four dances (including two premieres) and marks the company’s Cincinnati debut.

Each segment showcases dancers interacting with or mirroring nature in varying ways. The show’s opening “Thou Hast Trepast” is Biodance at Home’s most playful. With a grainy black-and-white filter, it’s looks like a silent film. Donning 1920s dresses, the dancers frolic through New York’s Powder Mill Park in exaggerated, gleeful movement sound-tracked by Tin Pan Alley music.

Executive director Missy Pfol Smith speaks at multiple points during the 32-minute compilation to preview what’s coming next. An excerpt from their evening-length work Aria, which premiered at 2018’s Rochester Fringe, is the second piece. Dancers clad in flowing blue satin slowly and organically move across the stage, awash in shadowy aqua. Reminiscent of the ocean’s tide, each dancer rises and falls like individual ripples of water connecting, resisting, or becoming one as trance-like music from Ólafur Arnalds resounds through the space. While hauntingly beautiful, Aria was undoubtedly made for complete audience immersion. This clip made me wish I could witness it in person, but the virtual translation wasn’t quite there.

The final two pieces were created during the pandemic. Natalia Lisina’s Lullaby opens with her building a bird nest before placing it atop her head, all while softly singing. Filmed outside, sounds of chirping birds, wind and leaves crunching under Lisina’s feet are layered with sparse chimes/drums. The work seems to be a meditation on motherhood.

The collection ended on the piece Pilgrimage, the result of seeking out a way to create socially distanced choreography. Filmed outside of Rochester, Pfol notes that they distilled hours of footage into one video. It’s the most complex of the collection, weaving together poetry by Lauren K. Alleyne with special effects by W. Michelle Harris. Dancers contort around trees and scattered sculptures.

Others flow by a creek bed or investigate a forgotten structure. When together, they play with space and distance — a call to the collective isolation most of the world has felt. At times, the graphics were overpowering, and some captured moments packed more punch than others. But its ending shines: From an aerial view we see the dancers standing in a field; a foreboding red line dissects the shot into thirds. They move back from another until the shot is empty but for translucent color. 

Biodance at Home is a short video-on-demand watch with thought-provoking artistry and context to help viewers, especially those unacquainted with the company, follow along.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.

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