Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review of Art in the Dark 2008 - A-Wol Dance Collective

As a special feature, I asked Michelle Johnson to review the outdoor dance performance by A-Wol Dance Collective on August 22nd. Johnson teaches ballet at Laurelhurst Studio.

Since it was still light outside, my daughter, Maria, and I easily followed the “Art in the Dark” signs after turning off Highway 43 to Mary S. Young Park in West Lynn. The walking path had lights strung along it that were cheerful as the trees started getting thick about then and the daylight grew dimmer. When we arrived at the end of the path and handed in the tickets we saw an open area surrounded by trees and across from us a stage and Bryan Free singing for pre-show entertainment at its side. The people closest to the stage sat on blankets and further back there were viewers in low chairs. I liked the relaxed ambiance of expectation and comfort on a warm, darkening evening. It was fun to notice that people who used to dance with the Oregon Ballet Theatre were in the audience (Daniel Kirk and Eric Skinner). The A-Wol Dance Collective must merit some attention!

The theme of the show as we understood involved presenting some pieces, chronologically, that A-Wol had done since they began five years ago, My first thought upon seeing the colorful slings hanging way up high on the trees was wondering how they could be sure they were secured enough, because tree limbs move! Yet the dancers showed no delay in the speedy turns, swinging, hanging, rolling up, rolling down, climbing, folding and more-- all by using harnesses, slings and rings. The female dancers climbed on each other and on the lone male we saw in the first half. Each piece was unique in its placement on stage and number of dancers and types of moves though I don’t now recall as much variation in the rhythmic jazz music. The costumes were simple fitted camisoles and boycut shorts.

The professional quality of the dancers made their performance outstanding. They have the noticeable gracefulness, strength and classical lines of dedicated, talented dancers. “Aerial Without Limits” indeed as they were all fearless in their feats of moving art and we watched in rapture sitting there grounded in the dark with a star-peeping sky above our heads. We hope to watch them again if they’re back next summer!

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