Revolve Dance Company Nexus

Photos by David Bullanday Photography

Photos by David Bullanday Photography

Group Think

Revolve Dance Company, with Ad Deum Dance Company.
November 9-10, 2012.
Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex
It was a big old party at Barnevelder for the first night of Revolve Dance Company’s annual fall concert, Nexus. Even better, it was packed with youngsters eager to watch dance. Most looked like dance students – no doubt from North Harris Performing Arts, Spring’s preeminent dance studio run by the Revolve dancers — the girls sleek and trim with that ballerina physique and carriage, and the guys just as willowy but much more laid-back and cool. All were excited to be there. One little scamp, daring authority and ready for his close-up, even performed an impromptu jig during intermission on the apron of the stage. When four girls, full-of-energy, entered the theater, they almost jeteéd to their seats, corralled by an anxious chaperone. The theater was abuzz with young life. To look over this enthused audience was to see the future of Houston dance: pleased to say, it’s a face of hope.

Nexus means bond or tie, a connection between a group, so Revolve’s program, with a guest appearance from Ad Deum Dance Company, ably showcased the ensemble. With one exception, all the pieces focused on community. Solos were kept to a minimum. If a dancer was featured, it was only moments before she/he was quickly absorbed into the fold. For Nexus, it takes a village.

Girl power was the happy mantra for the nine women be-bopping their way through Dawn Dippel’s rushing Let’s Go For a Ride. In Jane Thayer’s breezy colorful chiffons, the girls flew around the stage to the faux oldies of Pomplamosse. The objects of their desires and woeful wooing were three non-too-amorous beaux, played comically as mannequins on roller skates (Wesley Cordova, Matt Dippel, Zach Biehl). The guys remained impassive whether the girls attempted a shimmying caress or shook their fists at the dummies when they didn’t get the attention they wanted. The guys were pushed around, literally, by the girls. Choreographer Dippel kept everything at high pitch, varying the feel-good vibe for a quick line dance or a breakout movement for a spinning trio. A fun, breezy opener.

Amy Cain’s pas de deux Water needed a splash more liquid to give it the limpidness it pined for. Danced fluidly by Zach Biehl and Olivia Vandiver, the work was standard operating procedure: man with woman, hold me, let me go, I can’t, OK, don’t. She breaks free, he catches her by the shoulders and leads her backward. Even short, the piece meanders. In its rightful place in Cain’s longer work about the elements, Of This World, this dance may be revelatory; here, it’s over before we get into it. We can’t connect.

No one gets together at all in Cain’s Sound of Silence, set to Ani DiFranco’s dyspeptic “Grand Canyon” and Brooke Fraser’s rendition of the Simon & Garfunkle classic. It’s terribly earnest and sad. “I am indebted joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government to make right…born of the greatest pain into a grand canyon of light,” intones DiFranco while Dawn Dippel and Amy Cain, in ripped black leather, open the piece as proto-feminist commandos. Lady Liberty meets Lady Gaga. In David Deveau’s evocatively dappled light, Zach Biehl and eight woman slither across the floor. Once up and moving, he tries to make contact, passing through them. Everything is fleeting, ephemeral. Connections are missed. By the end, everyone walks off alone.

In a burst of rhythmic urban vibe, Cain switches gears and gives us a real crowd-pleaser with Angsters. Set to Adam Crawley’s industrial percussion, the four hyperactive dancers (Amy Cain, Wesley Cordova, Dawn Dippel, Matt Dippel) flop across the floor, vogue, go all robotic, and give attitude for days. A magnetic stage presence, Mr. Dippel eats up space.

With precise lines, dancey Medieval mop of hair, and lean as a Byzantine icon, he’s never less than “on.”  Miss Dippel has an angular duet with him, and when she comes back on immediately after, she’s all refreshed and smoothes her hair, ready for more gyrations. In a block of light, the four check their watches, or seem to, and leave one by one. The community is individualized.

The other quicksilver of the evening is Ad Deum’s Daniel Cossette, who doesn’t have much to do in Ryan Corriston’sQuestions for Mary, but he does it with overwhelming conviction and dramatic flair. Using the achingly haunting song by Carlo Furlan, one of the charismatic pastors at Hillcrest Chapel, Bellingham, Washington, the dance is content to show the lyrics, rather than use them as jumping-off point. The song’s probing questions, “Did he work miracles around the house…was his hair sprinkled with stardust…was he a constant chatterbox…” are treated with no more discernible choreographic difference than if one would ask Mary for her favorite recipe. The dance never enlarges to encompass anywhere else but where we are. The music carries this dance, as do the always-watchable Ad Deum performers: Stella Almblade, Lezlie Callaway, Lara Lanphier, Emily Runyeon, Tiffany Schrepferman, Sarah Yarbough, and Shizu Yasuda.

The Broadway-infused jazzy Now, by Wes Veldink, is a Revolve signature piece. Set to Lamb’s sultry “Softly,” the ensemble starts off in a line silhouetted against red, then immediately breaks apart, either to run back and forth across the stage or to coalesce into trios and quartets that slyly undulate in disjointed harmony. It has the sexy appeal of a Vegas show. Once again this community, though dancing in unison, is all by itself. “So happy with you…your love gives me all the blessings of a new day,” croons Lamb with sexy rasp. Amy Cain and Dawn Dippel have fleeting solos, but the men, Matt Dippel and Zach Biehl, their lovers who make them so ecstatic, are ill-served. The ladies seem awfully upset over something. These dreamers, now awake, are having a bad morning after. Now was stirringly danced by the entire company: which included Wesley Cordova, Lauren Difede, Allison Stanley, Jennifer Stricklin, Jane Thayer, Jessica Thayer, Alexa VanBreedam, Amber McDaniel, and Sarah Oakley.


About the Author

D.L. Groover, a Two-time Lone Star Press Award winner for Arts Criticism, writes about the stage for the Houston Press, OutSmart Magazine, and Playbill. He is co-author of Skeletons From the Opera Closet, an irreverent look at that loudmouth art form.

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