Breaking Ground 2015 Delivered Strong Dance and Film, But More Would Have Been Nice

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Friday's program also included Subterrain choreographed by Eric Handman with Carley Conder, Gambaru choreographed by Shaun Boyle in collaboration with the dancers, Katherinette choreographed by Selene Carter, ME: story of a performance by filmmakers Jopsu and Timo Ramu, All Time Love choreographed by Aaron McGloin, and Rise (excerpt) choreographed by Suzanne Beahrs with members of her company.

Conder's Subterrain performance, danced on a stage unembellished save for large lighting structures flanking stage left and right, signaled the minimalist vibe for this this year's festival, something Conder described in a recent interview with Jackalope Ranch as a return to "a lot of physicality and a high level of production value that doesn't rely on props and visual ideas."

The piece, informed by both ballet and martial arts, was a beautiful blend of artistic and athletic sensibilities demonstrating the power one dancer can bring to wide open, empty spaces. With softer lines and presence, Aaron McGloin demonstrated similar power dancing through his own piece exploring the disconnect between modern-day expectations and the authentic quest for love. McGloin holds a BFA in choreography from ASU, but his company is based in New York City.

Ironically, the festival's strongest work -- Shaun Boyle's Gambaru performed by Nick Blaylock, Laura Brick, Daniel Do, Michelle Reay, and Chorong Yang -- was the one with the strongest visual presence. Dancers donned black, white and red costumes designed by Boyle, and danced on the stage sometimes saturated by lighting with a rich shade that looked like a mash-up of cherry blossoms with blood.

Program notes explain that "gambaru," a word commonly used in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, refers in Japanese culture to "perseverance and enduring difficult times." Performed to traditional Japanese music featuring Taiko drums, five vignettes signal challenges overcome through "physical aptitude, endurance, and tenacity." Even separate from its back story, it's a captivating piece, in part because of lighting design by Cole Adams and Isaac Taylor.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble