The Harvard Radcliffe Modern Dance Company (HRMDC) continues to expose audiences to bold choreographic choices and innovative performance art. HRMDC’s spring production, “With Intent,” performed April 22nd and 23rd at the Harvard Dance Center, followed this trend, showcasing both new and old talent, and incorporating nontraditional technical and musical elements. While some of the artistic risk-taking proved awkward and lacked motivation, much of it produced dramatic moments to expand viewers’ understanding of contemporary dance.
The opening number, “What is to be done,” showed impressive choreographic potential on the part of Jun Shepard ’14. Hunched petit allegro and frenetic hand movements complemented the music’s rapid dissonant chords, making for a unique and strong show opener. However, the addition of a video component seemed entirely unnecessary, the unclear images on the projector distracting somewhat from the interesting movement onstage.
Conversely, mixed media significantly added to Halimeda Glickman-Hoch ‘12’s and Irineo Cabreros ‘13’s “…for dappled things,” in which a live cellist and pianist accompanied and interacted with the dancers onstage. Powerhouse male performers Cabreros and Tabare Gowon ’12 displayed agility and strength as they launched themselves to-and-from the floor. Dancers’ swaying arm and darting finger motions mirrored those of the musicians beautifully.
Veteran HRMDC choreographers Julia Havard ’11 and Patrick Quinn ’10 once again delivered pieces that served as the glue for the varied program. Havard’s sensual, raw style shone in “Nothing to Undo,” in which thrashing movement and photographs strewn onstage depicted pained relationships and memories. The almost hip-hop movement complemented Jenny Zhang ’14, whose strong dancing and stage presence could not be missed. But Havard’s duet, “The last two dodos,” was even more powerful, with its stripped-bare lighting and simple black curtain backdrop. Havard and Lina Lavitsky ’13 made clever use of their bodies, finding unique places to connect in their trusting partner work.
Quinn’s “Retox,” reminiscent of his past works, featured a large cast, pounding techno music, and dizzying patterns and lights. The mock-club scene onstage, combined with the repeat of the word “insane” in the music, was at times overwhelming, and the over-usage of fouette turns highlighted the uneven technique of the dancers. However, the overall effect was powerful, and left the audience stunned when the lights subsequently rose for intermission.
While intense themes and assorted technical components strengthened some pieces, they added confusion in others. Performers in “Fear of the Park” told an over-the-top tale of murder, with frighteningly cheerful costumes and cheesy expressions. The intention to be comical was somewhat unclear, and the piece felt out-of-place amongst the show’s cutting edge choreography. “L’asphyxie du soi” had thought-provoking moments of virility, as dancers hissed and screeched like animals, engaging in thrashing, anguished movement. Overall, however, the motif of red light and the dark mood were more confusing than enlightening.
In guest choreographer Jodi Leigh Allen’s “Crossing the Line,” a work in progress, dancers depicted strength in fluidity and played with invisible forces, leaving viewers wishing to see more. Another notable piece was the rough-and-tumble duet “What Happened Between 3 and 5,” which incorporated a bare mattress onstage and original music by Jesse Wong ’12.
The most powerful portion of the 3pm show, however, was the final company improvisation, in which HRMDC showed off its strengths. Performers interacted as though they could read one another’s minds, almost magically producing spontaneous moments of poignancy. A triumphant handstand by Paige Martin ’11 as the music climaxed represented the pinnacle of the company’s energy. Lasting at least a minute, the effect of the handstand reflected that of “With Intent:” risky, shocking, powerful, and of course, purposeful.
–The Harvard Art Review Dance Board
This article has been edited with the correction that Tabare Gowon is Class of 2012, not 2014. – 6/3/11