REVIEW: ‘Birth of Existence’ beautiful, moving
Choreographer/dancer Anjanée Bell and her troupe, Bellan Contemporary Dance Theatre, offered an unusual evening of dance Thursday with her work-in-progress “The Birth of Existence Project – Bridge of Light.” This beautiful, evocative, emotionally moving multimedia work engages on many levels.
In a post-performance session, when asked what they liked best, audience members testify that the work keeps them interested. One woman said, “I hated to see it end.” And, the Reynolds Industries Theater audience did not wait until the performance concluded to applaud; they applauded after each section.
The opening sets the tone for a journey as dancers walk slowly as though they’ve been traveling for a long time. As this work progresses, other types of journeys come to mind such as personal struggles through dark times. Then, there’s the question of faith – wandering through the wilderness of temptations and emerging reborn.
This multigeneration company features mature, accomplished dancers as well as confident, well-trained children.
Collaborators bring their talents to the mix.
Filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman’s images, projected on a large screen, create atmospheres that support and enrich what is happening onstage. Clouds, raindrops, wind rustling a tree’s leaves, a sky peppered by a large flock of birds. There is also the sound of thunder and rain falling. Shadow images of dancers, sometimes larger-than life, projected on the screen, suggest other generations – ancestors’ perhaps.
Dancer/choreographer Gaspard Louis adds to the mix with his duet that he and Bell perform. The chemistry between them and the fact that they are well-matched physically, makes this duet more powerful, by turns sensual and tender. You could almost hear the audience collectively gasp when, after being lifted and supported throughout most of the duet, Bell lifts Louis and cradles him in her arms.
That this company is multi-generational, with ages ranging from 37 to 4, makes this journey all the more human and therefore more engaging. The children appear throughout this work, beginning with the travelers until the end when they prance with joy. The inclusion of children makes this company most unusual. In over 30 years of dance-watching, I have never seen such a company. And, these children can dance. They move with confidence and grace.
They also successfully take on other challenges such as bending their bodies into balls, drawing their knees up and holding onto their legs as they roll – not a smooth roll, but a rocky one as elbows and knees bump the stage. They resemble small boulders.
Finally, these children really add to the last scene, which appears to be inspired by Alvin Ailey’s “Wade in the Water” section of “Revelations.” Who would have thought that the sense of jubilation in Ailey’s work could be topped. But Bell does that with the children’s’ uninhibited joy. In the procession with the adults, little boys wave white cloths and little girls twirl white umbrellas. In a free-spirited way, the smallest girl, who leads the procession, twirls her umbrella in all directions.
Children also embody hope so their presence in this work underscores this expectation – hope for the future, hope for a more compassionate way of being in the world.