Dance pieces challenge assumptions of abilities

This article appeared on ABQ Journal OnlineBy Jennifer Noyer / For the Journal  on Sun, Mar 25, 2012

The AXIS Dance Company returned to the Global DanceFest on Friday evening at the North Fourth Theater to present three brilliant, physically integrated dance pieces that truly change ideas of dance possibilities for the human body. Choreographers David Dorfman, Alex Ketley and Marc Brew worked in collaboration with these gifted dancers and artistic director Judith Smith to explore intimate interactions and dramatic conversations between performers both with and without disabilities.

Dorfman’s choreography for “Light Shelter” used dancers Rodney Bell and Alice Sheppard wheeling in and out of light and shade, with Juliana Monin, Sebastian Grubb and Sonsherée Giles running and leaping between them. Numbers were called out by Smith, off stage, as dancers began new sequences, then froze in space between each one. They picked up gestures from each other as the movement progressed to full thematic statements.

Giles created a quivering, static character in a seeming autistic state, while Monin manipulated, embraced, and tried to establish a physical connection with her. Vibrating fingers combined with tight, reaching gestures as Giles moved in another world from her partner. The original score, composed by Albert Mathias & Michael Wall, introduced the sung words, “Somewhere there’s music, how high the moon …” as the dancers sang and joined in unison movement combined together in the full theme.

Ketley’s “To Color Me Different,” to an underlying sound score that rumbled electronically, was an amazing sensual duet between Giles and Bell, both lying on the floor together to begin strong, floor-bound partnering. They moved over and around each other with a sharing of weight that lifted each other gradually upward to Bell’s wheelchair. They crawled, climbed, embraced and balanced on each other with gymnastic grace and dramatic chemistry.

“Full of Words” was another collaboration between choreographer Brew and the dancers. The stage set established three conversation areas. A table and chairs at stage right placed Giles and Sheppard in an encounter with words and movement. They created sentences of sharing, conflict, support and friendship as they moved both on top of the table, beneath it, hanging from its edges, and sweeping away from it together.

A recliner chair at stage left, next to a floor lamp, set the conversation area for Bell, seated alone in a silent conversation with his chair. A phone rings after a dialing sound, yet Bell is left to struggle alone, to be approached later.

At center are Monin and Grubb who move in and out of a bathtub at center stage, seducing, confronting, carrying each other in a loving conversation, and finally submerging together in the tub to sounds of water splashing. Giles joins Bell at the armchair, climbing onto his lap, rolling high above him over the back, and rising high over his head in a turning lift. It was an emotional intervention that sparkled passion.

Global DanceFest ends next weekend with “Tool is Loot,” by Bessie Award winning choreographer Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey. Cardona and Lacey began creating this piece in collaboration while on separate continents, in New York and Paris, each collaborating with non-dance experts. They came together with solos to form a pas de deux. Come see what they put together. — This article appeared on page F3 of the Albuquerque Journal