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Cafritz Foundation Theater at Dance Place
Remaining performances (tickets available here):
Saturday, 7/18 at 5 p.m. Sunday, 7/19 at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, 7/23 at 10 p.m. Saturday, 7/25 at 11:45 a.m.
They say: These dance works are inspired by the women of Shakespeare’s plays. Mad Women of Macbeth explores the iconic figures of the Weird Sisters and Lady Macbeth. The solo Desdemona portrays this character, isolating and shedding light on her unique predicament.
Emily’s take: In the Fringe canon of contemporary adaptations of the Bard, Baltimore-based Trajectory Dance Project offers one more: Shakespeare via contemporary dance. And not just Shakespeare, but one particular character subset: his “mad women.” In Dancing Ophelia, dancers take on personas from Desdemona to Kate and Petruchio to Lady MacBeth (but the titular Ophelia makes no appearance herself).
The show begins slowly, with “Spinning Straw,” bringing director and choreographer Alice Howes to dance with Katrina Toews and Alicia Williams, who stands out among the trio for her easy grace. The piece is a little lackluster, and doesn’t play to the dancers’ strengths or tie them together as well as it might, as later pieces do.
The second, “Desdemona” pairs a breathless dialogue between Othello and Iago. The voices of the men remain disembodied, piped through speakers while Frances James moves with circular grace tempered by razor-sharp precision onstage. The exact content of the dialogue gets a bit lost in the fast-gasping speech between Hugh Quarshie’s Othello and Anton Lesser’s Iago, but the feeling of a crucial plot afoot remains. James plays Desdemona desperate but proud, driven into a struggle with herself, grasping her own wrist as if it were the traitorous debate happening above and around her, invisible but spelling her doom.
Williams returns for the third piece, “By Day My Limbs, By Night My Mind,” pulling from Shakespeare’s sonnet 27. In pajamas, she writhes restless on the ground, tossing and turning. Music, made of vocal percussion repeating like the voices in her head, begins, while she shakes loose, a mix of graceful spins and rag doll flops. The piece conveyed well the idea of insomnia and the torture of incessant wakefulness, but the underpinning of the sonnet as love poem was a bit lost.
The “Mad Women of Macbeth” brings Howes to the stage as Lady Macbeth, but her choreography fits better on the trio who comes onstage for the “Incantation,” movement, featuring the Weird Sister trio of Williams, Valerie Branch, and Mari Travis (danced by Christine Wyatt on alternate nights). The three move easily together and apart, managing to maintain a connection even while going through separate motions across the stage. It is good choreography danced well, easily the most seamless piece of the program.
Jumping to another mood entirely, “Something Borrowed: Kate and Petruchio’s Wedding” re-imagines The Taming of the Shrew’s central marriage with a pulsing beat and echoing piano reverb—music from Philip Glass and Androoval. Toews is joined by Hai Do, the lone male among all these female Shakespearean dancers, acrobatic in his role as the groom.
After these pieces, the program shifts to its epilogue, putting Branch, Travis, and James in a lovely grouping with Wyatt (Madison Bonaparte replacing Travis on alternate nights) for “Emptiness is All,” achieving again the smooth synergy of “Incantation.” Synced well, “Emptiness” swaps out three against one in varying arrangements, switching to pairs in pleasing oppositions, all with ethereal floating costumes and light music with piano and strings.
The last piece, the final experiment of the program trading between music and spoken word, is “The Body is Not an Apology.” Set to a slam poem of the same title by Sonya Renee, its sharp tone ties less clearly to the theme, though Branch, James, and Travis (alternate nights by Bonaparte) again move together well, ending with a passionate, striking pose.
See it if: You’ve been waiting for the Bard’s female characters to get their chance in the spotlight.
Skip it if: Shakespeare, slam poetry, and Philip Glass sounds like a bit too much for one program.
Photo courtesy of Trajectory Dance Project