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Leave a Tone After the Message!!! The Trading Post – The Apothecary

Remaining Performances: July 12 at 2:00p.m.

They say: Check your mirrors. Where’s True North? Five journeys to find the secret. You can’t get there from here. Who has the key? Where’s the lock-box? Talismans everywhere leading us forward and astray simultaneously.

Brett’s take: “My friend often asks me, ‘What is modern dance? Isn’t it just a bunch of people running back and forth across the stage?'”

That is not overheard gossip outside of this show; rather it is a quote from the first of four modern dance pieces that compose this hour-long show. What follows that quote: the dancers running back and forth across the stage.

With that cheeky self-awareness “Magnetic East” begins, but the promisingly winking tone is, alas, not sustained. The dancers are simply neither talented nor committed enough to blow the cliches up to humorous oversize. And so goes the rest of the hour: watching, I frequently wished to see the same concept performed by more capable dancers, or at least more capable actors: often, even when the movement grew interesting, the dancer’s faces were blank or strained, shattering the illusion (the exception being the pixieish Adrian Moore, whose expressive face showed what might have been).

The second piece, “Roma,” is a whimsy about two travelers in the Italian capital. It succeeds in creating gentle tension through a sine-wave-like oscillation between the dancers first matching exactly and then one echoing the other; but the individual moves are not always inspired. The multi-sectioned final piece, “Ice Cold Melt,” concerns a passage over a freezing mountain. Throughout the show, original music is performed live on instruments organic and electronic, and is often a highlight (the music is composed in the rehearsal process with the company), and in “Ice Cold Melt,” the standout movement is the one wherein Gary Rouzer plays on a series of found percussion objects. He transcends “some guy banging on stuff” and reaches “a musician conveying the sense-experience of iciness by differentiating between the timbres of wood on tin and plastic on aluminum.” But the choreography lacks creative force; too much arm waving-like-a-bird, too much fall-and-get-up.

However (for those playing the home game), I’ve skipped the third piece, and that is because it is perhaps, on its own, worth the price of admission. Choreographer/performer Chris Dohse (not part of the company) plays a sort of pajama-wearing lout, or perhaps a tragic W.C. Fields, captivating us with his haughtiness one moment and then surprising us with vulnerability the next. The performance is not perfect – as with the other dancers, he could use a good artistic shot of mime training – but it is interesting and somehow works with the bits of Alice Through the Looking Glass quoted therein.

The answer to the question about modern dance is this: it is movement freed from classical restraints, capturing emotions, ideas and moments. Dance Performance Group have freed their minds from typical subject matter; but their terpsichore does not live up to their conceptualizing.

See it if: You’re a glass-half-full type, who’ll forgive some flaws for the achievements; AND you’re an intuitive type, who can enjoy evocations without storylines.

Skip it if: You’ve ever been that friend ‘quoted’ above.