REVIEW: 'Footprints' brings ADF to impressive end

Jul. 27, 2014 @ 04:05 PM

The American Dance Festival’s 81st season ends on a high note with the “Footprints” program as 59 students impress with their high-voltage energy, technical proficiency and showmanship in performances Thursday-Saturday (July 24-26) in Reynolds Industries Theater. During the festival, students worked with choreographers Netta Yerushalmy, Leonie McDonagh and Carl Flink to create these premieres.
The first two dances felt like roller-coaster rides while the third was a journey through the dark side of human nature.
With large casts and over-the-top athleticism, “Yerushalmy’s “Pictogrames” and McDonagh’s “Four Fingers and One Thumb,” provided a real rush.
Yerushalmy’s “Pictogrames,” featuring 19 dancers, begins with a single dancer bouncing and expands with a variety of swift, highly demanding moves as well as some unusual ways of locomotion.
In an exaggerated, high-stepping move, a male dancer kicks his legs high in front of him, arms outstretched, as he leans way back – a difficult move that he manages to pull off at warp speed. Dancers run, bent-over, shoulders hunched, elbows bent. They exit on their toes, arms raised and churning through the air. Two dancers carry a woman, posed like a statue and set her down. Another duo sets another female dancer down on one foot and she hops on that foot into the wings. There’s a mysterious moment as a dancer, in shadows, sneaks by in front of another dancer. And, yes, there’s a moment when a group of dancers bound across the stage, legs spread wide in giant leaps, like a herd of animals in one of those prehistoric pictograms painted on cave walls.
McDonagh’s “Four Fingers and One Thumb,” featuring 28 dancers, begins with some balancing acts reminiscent of the circus as performers make attempts to top themselves. In each attempt, they count out loud the number of handstands they can make, bracing against each other.  In the last try, they form the longest line of handstands and then yet another joins them; the petite, female dancer walks on her hands to get to the group. Drum rolls and other percussive sounds, performed live by Andy Hasenpflug, adds to the circus atmosphere.
Humor pervades this work. In a mock fight, the sound of broken glass occurs when someone lands a punch (with a gesture, instead of actual contact). At the end of this sequence, two guys face off but neither makes a move. Then, there’s the sound of broken glass, and one of the men falls down even though the other guy remains still. At the end, there’s a big, showbiz number, performed by many dancers in various pink outfits, to the song, “One, “ the finale of  “A Chorus Line.”
The mood drastically changes in Flink’s “An Unkindness of Ravens,” featuring 12 dancers. The atmosphere is murky- dark and smoky. It soon becomes apparent that there are victims and victimizers.
The victimizer, a guy with a mohawk, drags a man by one leg and slings his still form as though throwing away garbage. He does the same to a woman. Pods, suspended above stage, break open and long, metal chains tumble out and land on the floor. This structure serves as a cage for victims. At one point, in the cage, the aggressor and his female victim walk in different directions but always in close proximity, which is creepy, ominous. In the end, the male victim turns the tables, presumably with the help of the group, which makes, quick, cutting motions with one hand, the victimizer sprawled at their feet. This begs the question, is the action of the group and the victim, justified or does it just perpetuate violence?