Review: FRAMES OF MIND at Newport Contemporary Ballet

Newport Contemporary Ballet continues to move audiences with their fantastic May program.

By: May. 17, 2024
Review: FRAMES OF MIND at Newport Contemporary Ballet
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Just in time for Mental Health Awareness month, Newport Contemporary Ballet presents a captivating evening of three mind-focused pieces, FRAMES OF MIND, at Providence’s WaterFire Arts Center.

“Steady Grip,” a piece choreographed by Worcester native Mark Harootian, reflects the heightened stress and anxiety brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular with the inability to be there for one’s friends and family during the initial period of isolation. The piece begins with six dancers sitting on folding chairs throughout the stage, who appear to be waiting in different states of duress or anxiety – heads resting in hands or curled up into oneself. As the music begins, dancers individually react, the movements of one soon echoed by the others. Solo dancers break free, but only for a moment. At times, there is a reaching away from oneself, an inward struggle bursting outward. Punctuating this are moments of appearing to lay themselves bare, draping backwards over the back of the chair. The struggle to connect despite the desire to is made manifest in this short but compelling piece.

Choreographer Rodney Rivera’s “Memoria y Vidrio” tackles the imperfections of our memories of the moments, particularly those shared with others, in our lives.  Dancing at times as a group and other times as a pair, trio, and quartet specifically, through low lighting, the groupings dance, at times separately, at times altogether. In the pas de deux, their styles don’t always align - his movements jauntier, hers more liquid - but in the end they come together, swaying to the music before slowly wandering off-stage. The trio, perhaps representing memory of one’s parents, we perhaps see the idea of imperfect memories, or sense impressions, because although the pair do interact with the single female dancer, and she with them, at times she echoes their movement or chases after them, a moment behind. There is a sense of lightness to the group of four, with some particularly lovely work by the female soloist. In the end, all dance together in seeming joy at what is, at the chance to be together in the present moment.

The final, longer work is a new piece by NCB’s Executive Artistic Director, Danielle Genest, “The Lines are Fading” which focuses on Alzheimer’s Disease and its effects on the afflicted, their loved ones, and caregivers. Genest conversed with clinicians and mental health professionals from the Butler Hospital Memory and Aging Program to ensure that her work is not only a reflection of personal experience, but an accurate embodiment of neurodegenerative disease.

The first movement opens with the dancers dressed all in white, gathered in brain-like lobes center-stage. Set to lightly pulsing, hypnotic music, they stretch apart and then smoothly back together, become separated but return in coordinated, fluid movement. Only brief echoey, discordant moments in the music hint at anything going amiss. The second movement takes us from the brain and its electrical impulses to the very human repercussions. In several small groupings, we begin to see things breaking down. In one moment, several of the dancers lay on the ground as another watches, slowly stepping over them as if in perplexity. Elsewhere, there are gorgeous moments of supported stillness, or trying to hold on to another person as they begin to quietly walk away. In a later portion of the movement, the always excellent Ben Rabe appears to wrestle with himself, his body and its movements – or lack thereof – in a way that is particularly heartbreaking. The third movement returns us to the brain formation, but things are different than before. The dancers wander slowly at first, and movements become coordinated, but singles and pairs often break away, bodily supporting one another. There is an almost liquid quality to the music that works very well here.

In pre-show comments, Genest emphasized “hope” as a key word describing the final movement, and that indeed shines through. There is more uplifting music, and the dancers are literally lifted in support by those around them. There are still challenges and confusion, but there is also indeed love and hope.

Newport Contemporary Ballet continues to excel at the art form, technically and artistically, and one need look no further than Frames of Mind for a characteristically exceptional experience.

Frames of Mind runs through May 18th at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence, RI. For tickets go to: https://newportcontemporaryballet.my.salesforce-sites.com/ticket#/events/a0U8V00001J8qn3UAB

Photo courtesy of Newport Contemporary Ballet.




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