By Merilyn Jackson, for The Inquirer
March 1, 2014
These days, there is as much a global arts scene as a global economy. Terry Fox, executive director of Philadelphia Dance Projects, curates programs that partner Philadelphia dance groups with others from across the country. On Thursday night at the Performance Garage, she made her first international match: Nora Gibson’s Temporal Objects and, from Ireland, John Scott’s Body Duet.The two works looked and sounded out of sync. Yet among the common denominators were devotion to technique,razor-sharp dancing, and a laserlike vision of each work’s arc.
Gibson, who founded the Nora Gibson Performance Project here in 2009, is a serious choreographer who braces her works with the formalism of her ballet training, then isolates those movement phrases into still frames. For Temporal Objects, she and four other women often stood off to the side posed in first position, while one or more of them pivoted in sheer, floor-length black skirts and soft ballet slippers.
Jessica Warchal-King was the principal cog in the Gibson machine as it instantaneously changed directions. Erin Gallagher, Melissa McCarten, and Meredith Stapleton wheeled around with the intensity the piece demanded. Gibson, a small dynamo, was most fascinating to watch. Chin tucked slightly into her chest, perfect port-de-bras, she moved through Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 as if trying to erase every other beat. Lighting designer Clifford Greer emphasized this impression with 14 LED floodlights computerized to stutter on and off seemingly at her will.
Brooklyn-based Michelle Boulé and Dublin’s Philip Connaughton turned in a tour-de-fierce performance of Scott’s Body Duet, externalizing interior emotions after sexual betrayal – beginning with silent contact-improv that looked like hand-to-hand combat, and moving through synchronized side-by-side sections.
They announced hand gestures, used text to illustrate movement, traded syllables they read from text on an iPad, body-slammed, roughly flipped into each other’s arms, screamed, and literally blew each other away. By the end, the score by Blackfish (James Everest and Joel Pickard, a Minneapolis/Dublin collaboration) took on a chantlike quality as Boulé and Connaughton tenderly carried each other in awkward positions. It felt like the holiness of love and forgiveness.