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Element (work-in-progress) – Shaneeka Harrell

September 8, 2009

Mud Love. This was the possible title of the dance I witnessed. I checked my notebook to see what my immediate comments were for this piece but the expletives written out of uncontrollable appreciation are not fit for writing here. It was fantastic. The curtain opens to a dense fog escaping the stage and before I notice Sarah Lustbader walking slowly, purposefully, on her hands and feet, I see a tongue of smoke twist past my face. She moves with intention not to arrive at any certain place but with control and grace, each step placed exactly where it was meant to go. She continues to travel as Jenna Riegel arrives.

Credit: Arthur Fink Photography

Credit: Arthur Fink Photography

The intensity with which Jenna dances comes not from quick or difficult movement but from her muscularity, the incredible power that overlays her every move. They dance separately while slowly, seemingly unintentionally, they begin to come closer together. The music is by Albert Mathias along with the song Section 20 (Together We’re Heavy) by The Polyphonic Spree :

They finally meet. Their meeting is not sparked by any one moment but is a gradual build up from small touches to grazing a foot or an arm until finally they are pushing, pulling, flinging and falling on to each other. At one moment, Jenna has placed her hand at the back of Sarah’s neck and shifts herself so that they are each balancing between each other. They are spinning and as their heads move around the circle their eyes are locked. For the briefest moment their faces come nearly together, a fleeting intimate gesture, a terrifying near kiss. And then, slowly, they move a part, still grazing and then just touching. Sarah begins again to carefully walk on her hands and knees while Jenna dances away and off stage. Not even a glance in each others direction or a change in their stride might allude to their departure. It’s as though they were just passing through an open but mysterious place, a jungle, to never meet again. The lights dim and the stage darkens to black.

Did you feel the intensity I felt I had witnessed? What other interpretations did you see?

Was this a dance about two women or did the gender of the dancers not impress upon you?

Did their relationship remind you of any other dances, duet or otherwise?

Have you ever passed someone in a jungle?

Different Voices, August 7th, 2009
Schaeffer Theatre, Bates Dance Festival
Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

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