Dance Place: Cafritz Foundation Theater
Remaining performances (tickets available here):
Tuesday, July 21 at 8:30pm Thursday, July 23 at 5:40pm Friday, July 24 at 9:30pm
In Purge, we explore a myriad of emotional content and discover what it means to truly rid oneself of an unwanted feeling, memory or condition, thus creating the ultimate cathartic release.
Purge is a production of northern Virginia’s fusiondance, showcasing the choreography of director Candra Eglin and dancers Shelley Siller and Laura Gelles.
The show opens with a black stage and a single spotlight where readers recite words about shattering, dramatic and theatrical. This first piece, “Shards,” then moves into dance, with stylized balletic and jerky movements. The dancers move like music box ballerinas, embodying a detachment corresponding to a post-traumatic emotional state.
One of the highlights of the program, “Wrath,” set to music with a low-thumping pulse and strings, showcases Siller as soloist. Early in the piece she catches a piece of fabric billowing from the wings, and as it drapes over her, she begins a beautiful and evocative tussle with this prop. In Siller’s dancing, something as insubstantial as a length of netting becomes central, as it by turns binds her and becomes an extension of her movements. Her interaction with the fabric continues to develop as her solo becomes a trio in the second part of the piece.
The dance pieces are separated by readings, many from R.M. Drake. A poet and prose stylist who rode to fame on Instagram, Drake counts among his 1.2 million followers a celebrity fanbase. Famed for a series of short, diaristic entries typed on an old typewriter and photographed, Drake’s work is popularly (if not critically) acclaimed. These short snippets may be Drake at his best — at first glance they seem profound, and with just one thought or two to sit with, might stay that way — but once extended and read aloud, they fade to trite. The “intermission video,” a sequence of rehearsal clips on the road to Fringe with an explanation of the artistic process in a voiceover by Eglin, also drew attention to the program’s tendency toward over-narration. A more minimal setup for the dances would allow them to continue as the center of attention, as they deserve to be.
Proving this point, the pieces that focus least on projecting narration are the strongest, and tap most into the emotional intensity of the program’s theme. “Dknaack” is spellbinding and fierce, bringing four long-haired dancers to the floor to move in sync in a strong, controlled, and nearly-mechanical fashion. Percussive music, increasing use of segmented torso movements, and an ominous creeping progression with their hair flung forward to cover their faces in a red unearthly lighting makes them seem like they could be the furies, really like they are purging something.
A group piece in the second half, “Resurrection,” with five dancers melding, melting and lifting in its first installment, illustrates fusiondance’s cast of strong and graceful dancers. Its second movement dwindled from five dancers to two, and in the third, down to one: Kathleen Howard’s adagio solo felt full of longing, set to music by Icelandic musician and producer Ólafur Arnalds.
“Enveloped” soloist Justine Lee seemed more tormented and wild, building music taking her across a stage lit by nine circled spotlights.
The penultimate piece, “Starved,” uses a quintet in its first movement. It manages an arresting ending, with one dancer shoving another to the floor and exiting the stage, conveying what it means to break with something and walk away. In its second and third movements, the piece also makes use of the acrobatic talent and athletic strength of this group of dancers, as they partner in blindfolded pairs, standing on each other’s upturned feet and shoulders, pulling and falling to the ground, showing an impressive agility on the part of the company dancers.
While the progression of the purging process wasn’t always clear, the pieces were stunning in their execution of choreography and the talent of the dancers.
See it if: You can ignore the spoken word and just be mesmerized by the messages in the dancing.
Skip it if: You were hoping for a dance remake of the 2013 horror-thriller The Purge.
Handout photo courtesy of fusiondance