[Sidebar] July 19 - 26, 2001
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Modern classics

Island Moving Co. interprets Cole Porter

by Johnette Rodriguez

Island Moving Co.'s artistic director Miki Ohlsen first fell in love with Cole Porter when she was a child, as she listened to her father sing "Every Time We Say Goodbye." That song and four other Porter classics are the basis for her new ballet called Deconstructing Cole Porter.

Seen in rehearsal last week, Ohlsen's choreography is strikingly modern, beautifully evocative and imbued with a sense of the ballroom style usually associated with these songs. Island's current dancers, four men and five women for the upcoming performances in the "Flight of Steps" series at Fort Adams, July 22 and July 25 through 28, have never been better: polished, confident, as smooth as butter.

The first movement of the Porter piece opens with four couples facing the back of the stage, their bodies just beginning to sway to the hypnotic "like the beat, beat, beat of the tom, tom." They swing into motion on the title lyric, "Night and Day," reaching out longingly with their arms and then their legs, now and again posing with a hand atop their head or on their shoulder. Sometimes the movement swirls down onto the floor, but you can still recognize the stylized gestures of ballroom dance melded with modern ballet.

In the second movement, Eva Marie Pacheco performs an emotion-tugging rumination, "Why Can't You Behave?" Stroking each arm with her opposite hand or reaching an arm around her opposite shoulder, she seems to be trying to love herself to make up for the betrayal she experiences from her lover. The quiet moments in this piece are the most dramatic: she rolls each shoulder, then her head; her hands brush her face. Michael Bolger partners her in an attempt at apology -- the quick arabesque before he falls toward the floor, with his hands catching him, seems a moment of genuine abjection before she makes her final decision and sends him packing. Another pas de deux follows, with David Lawrence and Danielle Genest, set to "Every Time We Say Goodbye." Genest's bittersweet sadness is evident in every gesture and pose. She runs her fingers through her hair; she stands contemplative, one foot en pointe across the other; she reaches out and looks all around, as her beloved begins to disappear from her grasp.

The third pas de deux harks back to the first, in tone and feeling, as Rolando Troconis and Mary Beth Murphy perform "Get Out of Town." Ohlsen has choreographed this with more push and pull between the lovers. The dancers move toward one another for a lift and embrace. They almost kiss and then rush away. The sequence is repeated until he kisses her on the forehead and they finally part.

The closing movement brings the four couples back on the floor for "It Was Just One of Those Things." The male dancers (including Alejandro Gomez) lift the female dancers onto their shoulders, hold them under their arms for a close-to-the-floor whirl and pass them around their bodies onto the floor. This piece is breathtaking to watch, with the dancers in gem colors of silver, blue, green and purple. The dresses are straight columns, the men in matching T-shirts -- elegant but toned-down from tux and ball gown. The entire Deconstructing Cole Porter will be performed July 22, 25, and 28, with duets from it July 27.

The other premiere is by company member Danielle Genest, her first here in Rhode Island. Genest grew up in the Newport area and came back to dance with IMC two years ago. Volatile Passage (to be performed July 22, 27 and 28) is danced to "Like That of Sky," an Eastern-sounding piece by jazz composer Collin Wolcott. Passage begins with Eva Marie Pacheco hunched slightly forward, one foot over the other, arms rounded into a large semi-circle. At first, she strikes quick stances that match the rhythm of the piece, and then five dancers line up behind her, taking the original pose from the opening.

Genest explained that she was influenced by an Australian creation myth in which an underworld creature takes her children and pushes up through the surface of the earth, crawling along to make rivers, building shelters to make it habitable and then returning to the underworld, though leaving her children behind. All of these movements come into play in the dance, along with feisty kicks, floor rolls and fists in front of face to fend off and to protect. There are portions of the dance that even seem Tai-Chi-like, as the six dancers climb over and around one another.

The other five ballets from repertory that wil be performed in a schedule that encourages viewers to attend more than one night at Fort Adams are: Ruthless, the story of a young woman torn between her mother and her lover (22, 25); Hora Cera, a group of tangos (26, 27); Apples to Oranges, a solo by Michael Bolger (25); Under a Sheltered Sky, an allegory about praying mantises, with live music July 25, also performed July 28; and Date to Be Determined, Ohlsen's homage to departed friends and family members (26, 27). Call 847-4470 for details.

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