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BWW Reviews: Wandering with Jessica Lang Dance

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Jessica Lang Dance premiered The Wanderer at BAM Fisher in a wintery diorama that showcased Artistic Director and Choreographer Jessica Lang's comprehensive design. Starting a few minutes late on Friday, December 5th allowed time to observe the stage. Five white trees made of coiled rope hung from the ceiling, four white ledges protruded from one wall, a white ladder dangled in the balcony, and a white marley floor tracked a U-shape filled with black marley. In this minimalist scape, Lang's dancers morphed from beings to elements of nature with Schubert's libretto (The Fair Maid of the Mill).

Lang adhered to the barely nuanced narrative. A boy entranced by water fell in love with a girl fond of the color green; he is unable to fully capitalize on her fetish, she falls in love with someone else; he is heartbroken and drowns himself. The story is a skeleton which Lang assembled into an organism, while breathing life into the piddling tale.

Lang's "corps" of four dancers, simply labeled "The Others", are to be commended for inhabiting their multiple roles as dancers, stepping stones, and set managers. Dressed simply in grey, "The Others" shaped perspective of the space with each shift of the banks of the babbling brook and trees. Sometimes overly deliberate in shape-shifting, the dancers pointed to areas of focus. Kirk Henning as "The Wanderer" shone in Lang's balletic aesthetic. Lang's movement vocabulary required a strong ballet technique with the sensibility to liberate the groundedness of modern dance. Laura Mead's entrance as "The Girl" opened the portal of Lang's movement with her austere balance in attitude. Also, Henning (via chasses and degages) slid through a slalom course created by crouching "Others". Lang's version of a port des bras, where the arms remained connected as an "O," fully encompassed the hybrid movement. This port des bras displayed the dancers' strength and technique as they moved with the "O" up high and down low, jumping and sliding. Her phenomenal cast of dancers fully commanded their movement without appearing as out of place ballet dancers experimenting.

Baritone Steven Labrie added to the sweeping drama; passionately and fully engaged in the action he roved the balcony and came to the stage. The cast of characters found equality in the twisting and tying of the trees. They even "played" a game of jump rope to depict rippling waves rushing Henning and his opponent, "The Hunter", danced by Milan Misko. The role of "The Hunter" as accidental love interest, hovered on superficiality, less developed than the others but flawlessly performed by Misko. The stunning Kana Kimura as "The Brook" overlooked all. At times perched above the action, Kimura championed and challenged Henning in his gallant, but unsuccessful efforts for love. Her flowing blue dress concealed the origins of her movement. When her legs unfurled in developpe, they elicited gasps from the audience. Her dancers danced it out: they were beautiful, in command and yet not restrained.

Lang did not wander; nor did her viewer(s). We were in wonder.

Jessica Lang Dance by Julieta Cervantes.


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