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June 21-23 at Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, 55 Bethune Street
Presented by Vencl Dance
Company dancers: Jessica Ames, Taylor Ennen, Tomomi Imai, Morgan McMahon, Katie Montoya, Erin Pellecchia, and Cristina Ramos. Musicians: violist Wendy Richman, flutist Laura Cocks
Reviewed by Paul Berss June 22, 2018

Choreographer Susan Vencl presented a program of two group dances set to music by contemporary composer Arlene Sierra. Music for the two dance works was recorded; two instrument solos, also by Sierra, one for viola and the other for flute, were performed live. The music was atmospheric - it occurred to me that it would be an effective score for a spy or mystery movie.

Wendy Richman performs "Cricket-Viol" by Arlene Sierra as part of "Critical Junctures." Laura Cocks performs "Art of Lightness" by Arlene Sierra as part of "Critical Junctures."


"Long Before Afterward" by Susan Vencl, part of "Critical Junctures."

The press release very accurately called one of the dances a "meditation on randomness and unpredictability," a description that I felt applied to both dances, which were similar in vocabulary, mood and style of expression. Vencl's dance vocabulary is balletic, tho performed barefoot, with extensions, turns, jumps. The dancers' faces were basically expressionless; sometimes they seemed to be in a dreamlike state, and emotions were demonstrated in their movements. They often moved companionably in pairs, side by side; other times they supported one another in leans or bends; one walked aggressively up to another dancer and stamped her feet, as if to express anger or to get attention; there were occasional heavy collapses to the floor; at other times they were competitive with one another.

"Meditation on Violence" by Susan Vencl, part of "Critical Junctures."

The ending of the second piece was a surprise. One dancer stood with her back to the audience, as if exiting the space, and another approached the stander and gently placed her hand on her shoulder. A very tender, unexpected move, as if to say that despite all that we feel, we can come together and show love.

Vencl did stay true to her theme of randomness and unpredictability, and the dancers were well directed and performed with commitment. Though expressive through the movements, I felt little individuality or personality from the dancers, however, and therefore found it repititious and less than engaging.

Venci's technical staff did her proud: the excellent lighting was provided by David Glista, and costumes were by Sarah Thea, whose creations always move well, are cleverly designed, and flattering to the dancers.


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