Dance Place: Cafritz Foundation Theater

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Friday, July 24 at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 at 1:15 p.m.

They Say: 22 gorgeous dancers + six inspired choreographers + three brilliant musicians + one skilled spoken word artist = an amazing collaborative experience! This diverse and dynamic program will showcase dance, poetry and live music that ranges from absurd to hunting and playful.

Devon’s Take: D.C.-based contemporary dance company DancEthos brings out a wide range of moods and emotions in its choreographer showcase, incorporating live music and spoken word to pieces and offering a true demonstration of contemporary dance.

With six choreographed pieces (the program had seven, but one was not performed on the night I attended due to dancer injury), DancEthos Founding Artistic Director Tiffany Haughn manages to achieve the goal she described to the audience early in the performance: to collaborate with independent choreographers and bring different artistic voices together. From laugh-out-loud funny to dark and depressing, the pieces show off not only the range of the dancers, but the range within contemporary dance itself.

The show opens with “what touches will dissolve” by choreographer Rick Westerkamp, a piece that blends spoken word with contemporary dance to translate poet Sarah D. Lawson’s words into movement. The choreography complements the modern, relatable words of Lawson with repeated movements that speed up and slow down to reflect hectic energy and sustained moments of contemplation.

“In Memory Of,” choreographed by Felipe Oyarzun, uses a mixture of spoken word and dance to portray the haunting deterioration of a marriage into abuse. The piece transforms into a tango of domestic violence as Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” plays. One dancer, clad in a gown made of Post-it notes, walks across the stage and mirrors movements of other dancers in the midst of their violent interactions.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, choreographer Erica Rebollar and her dancers create a lighthearted, slapstick comedy of a dance in “Absurdist Suites.” And this is “slapstick” in the literal sense: The performers slap each other in a single-file line. They also periodically break into song, to the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys.

Ronya-Lee Anderson’s “Hinges” uses quieter music and a somber tone that doesn’t let the piece stand out as much as the others. Still, the theme of depression and isolation resonates. It’s a strength of the entire show that there’s such a wide range of emotions for audiences to connect with.

The West Shore Trio, composed of pianist Jay DeWire, violinist Heather Haughn, and cellist Diana Flesner, feature in both pieces choreographed by Haughn. The first, “Piazzolla,” takes a nine-dancer approach to tango. The second, “Fleeting,” serves as the finale to the performance, and brings new emotion to a classical piece of music by Johannes Brahms. The choreography begins with isolated dancers performing repeated counts and steadily grows in energy and strength throughout. It’s best moments are when the dancers form concentric circles, simultaneously reaching high and low for a formation that absorbs the entire stage.

The short vignettes move quickly, and I found I would have gladly sat through a show longer than 90 minutes. If it weren’t for the fussy baby in the back making the occasional cry in frustration or gurgling sounds, I would have been completely absorbed in the show. I applaud the dancer in “In Memory Of” who managed to stay in character, while eating an apple and in a Post-it note dress, and while the baby babbled throughout the break in music.

See it if: You want a crash course on the wide range of contemporary dance styles.

Skip it if: You are that baby, or suspect sitting through a dance show would turn you into that baby.

Handout photo courtesy of DancEthos