Review: Gaspard&Dancers a rich, rewarding experience

Oct. 21, 2013 @ 06:17 PM

Gaspard&Dancers’ program Oct. 18-19 at Reynolds Industries Theater represents an expansion of the continued growth of the Durham-based, modern dance company since its inception in 2009.  The depth and breadth of Gaspard Louis’ choreography, the number of accomplished dancers and collaborations with artists in other fields reaches a new level in this program.
Louis seems to have a talent for attracting/seeking collaborations with gifted artists in other fields. This results in a rich offering.
The program featured two world premieres, “Rubix” and “Annatations.” Composer/musician Joshua Starmer, costumer designer Jakki Kalogridis (making their debut with the company) as well as lighting designer John Kolba, composer Paul Leary and set designer Stephen Silverleaf contribute their talents to Louis’ visually exciting, emotionally moving choreography.
In “Annatations,” Starmer’s original score, which he performs on an amplified cello live onstage, alternates between lyrical and dirge and underscores the dance’s hopefulness and despair When he bows one long, low note, the sound seems to reverberate in body and soul. Silverleaf’s beautiful, abstract, white mobile forms, suspended above the dancers, resemble angels.
In this sequel to Louis’ “Souke” (“Shake”), premiered last year and included in this year’s program, Louis continues to explore a realm – whether in purgatory or on earth - in which inhabitants help each other though dark times. A male dancer hunches over, head bowed, in order to lift his partner seated on his back. Dancers in a line form a staircase by which a dancer ascends. Other moments evoke thwarted efforts to move forward caused by as when seated dancers thrust bodies forward in an odd, hopping motion as though they had one wounded leg.
In “Rubix,” Kalogridis’ costumes, each with a different black and white pattern, evoke the Rubik’s cube puzzle as the interactions of Louis, Kate Currin and Sebastian Alexis form human “knots” and tableaus.
This program also reprises Louis’ 2010 duet, “Magical Cusp,” a perfect match for  Louis and Kristin Taylor, as both are strong, expressive and charismatic performers.
A masterpiece of dance history, Talley Beatty’s 1947 solo “Mourner’s Bench,” provides a rare opportunity for audiences in this concert. Gregory B. Hinton doesn’t just perform, he embodies this dance learned firsthand from Beatty, himself. Hinton thus preserves and brings to life this powerful work of grief, loss and redemption. Hinton’s performance, at age 63, also testifies to his own passion for dance that fuels his perseverance in the field for some 40 years. The Durham native had opted not to pursue accounting, his major at North Carolina Central College (now University). Instead, he headed for New York and dance. His first break came when Chuck Davis invited him to joined Davis’ then New York-based company.
While I’ve seen “Mourner’s Bench” performed a number of times by young dancers over the years at the American Dance Festival, Hinton’s performance, in which he clings to, braces on and extends from, a narrow bench, communicates a greater sense of loss and vulnerability as well as the strength that comes from life’s struggles. The bench presents a platform for courage as well. In one such moment, as he stands on the bench, back to the audience, Hinton, without looking, takes a step backwards and lands, on one knee on the stage floor.