Artistic Director Martin Lofsnes leads 360 Degree Dance Company in presenting an evening of contemporary and classic modern dance pieces as a part of the Guest Artist series at Dance Theater Workshop this weekend. Summoning up the stark emotional purity of classic modern dance from the Martha Graham era, this evening is a rare and encouraging evening in which, keeping with the abstract expressionism of Graham, treats each movement phrase as comprehensive dramatic gesture.
However, this collection of work manages to channel more than the ghost of dances past: 360 sets forth a re-examination of fundamental modern dance principles within a contemporary landscape. With an inquisitive, challenging movement vocabulary, the basics of bones, muscles and breath are put to the test. The result puts us to the edge of our seat.
As the first dancers appear onstage a moment of adjustment is needed, as the concentrated emotional content of their performance is so different from the aloofness of current downtown dance. Backs arch and hunch, legs stretch long to contract to a stump, a hand extends with urgency; this movement is deliberate and hard-won. The majority of the performers, and most exquisitely principle dancers Erica Dankmeyer, Alessandra Prosperi and Lofsnes himself, trained and performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company extensively, giving the entire evening the punctuated, highly dramatic aesthetic that the execution of Graham technique fosters. The classic works were performed to perfection and the more recently choreographed works were able to treat the Graham-based expressionism as a pivot to view and juxtapose other dramatic elements, most successfully in Ricardo Flores’s work “Que Color Tiene El Amor” (2002).
In this duet the stark drama of classical modern technique is put into an almost cinematic world of color and texture, while allowing the movement to remain isolated as pure emotional gesture. When this dance language enters into conversation with an umbrella, romantic music, two small tables, a flashlight and a grapefruit—with sand pouring from the sky—the formalism of the movement is in service of some kind of new theatricality, where the whisper of the leg or upper torso becomes newly charged. Like a flip-book, the movement progresses but always with interruption, heightening a dramatic emotional narrative that uses its own presentational quality to denounce the emotional distance it creates.
Rather than being contained or limited by, 360 Degree Dance Company is impressively inspired by the strong Graham legacy that characterizes its performers’ training, and will hopefully be a leader in identifying the relevance of these modern dance pioneers within the contemporary community, bring us “full circle.”