BWW Review: Cityscapes & Digital Engagement with Elisa Monte Dance
Tiffany Rea-Fisher continues to prove that she was the perfect choice for taking over the reins of Elisa Monte Dance. After joining the company in 2004, she was promoted to principal and artistic associate, and in tandem with those duties, developed her own teaching and creative production platforms to collaborate with a wide range of artists. Not only does she have a command of the company style and an extensive network of connections, but she is also young enough and (tapped in enough) to understand how best to engage the crucial youth demographic that is the lifeblood of any evolving company (without alienating the longtime, and aging fanbase.) If this concert series at The Flea is an indication of the future, then it appears that the company is on the pathway to success.
Part of Rea-Fisher's engagement with the in-crowd involved developing an app with Sai Rodboon to entertain the audience between pauses in the concert. I spend as little time on my phone as possible, so I did not download this app, though my concert guest explained that it was a lot of fun and something his daughter would have loved. But this is a dance concert and all I really care about is how the movement fared. Part I, Tilted Arc, was a languid affair of bodies coming together in abstract angles that mirrored a provocative sculpture by Richard Serra. I'm gathering this from the program notes because I saw little that proved provoking or that referenced this drama in the performance. As far as choreography goes, that is a problem. If dance is the thing and I cannot rely upon it to clue me in to the choreographer's intent, then what do I have? Talented dancers with excellent penchés, flexible limbs, and supple bodies. For my concert mate, that was enough, but I wanted something more.
The more apparently came through in Part II, Emerged Nation, a clubby dance-beat fest dedicated to the assimilation of Black/First Nation culture into the melting pot that is the United States. During the curtain speech, we were warned that this section included strobe lights which, due to a concussion, forced me to step outside. I wish that I could have stayed, not only because the audience sounded if it was having a grand time but because the club music beat by Twelve45 was fantastically lively. Too few choreographers find exciting ways to stage party scenes. With her second career as an in-demand choreographer for stage plays, I imagine that Rea-Fisher would have done a fabulous job.
The evening closed with another muted performance; Part II, Kinetic Kinship, employed the sounds of NYC in a park as its musical backdrop. This lack of music was poor accompaniment for the movement, which, similarly to Part I, fell along the rhythmic lines of one and-a-two, with every step. I have written this quite frequently of late, which does not make it any less true: without a sophisticated rhythmic sequence, choreography begins to look flat and wan. Though the dancers were working very hard and moved without error, it was difficult to make much out of their exertions. I would like to have seen this piece set to actual music, or sequenced with greater percussive sophistication to engage my eye. Bill Forsythe recently conducted an evening of quiet music, during which he made sure that his choreography was so rhythmically clear that one could hear the music through the dance. Isn't that one of the main reasons that we watch dance in the first place? To see the connection between percussion, propulsion, line, exquisite phrasing, and space devouring forms? Rea-Fisher has space devouring and gorgeous bodies galore. Thus far, the music eludes her.
Elisa Monte Dance opened its 39th season at The Flea on November 21-24, 2019.