WRITTEN BY DEBRA LYNN
FORTRESS + 4 SOLOS was an evening of dance presented by two dancers, Livona Ellis and Rebeccas Margolick, both of whom have performed internationally and accumulated a long list of dance accolades and achievements.
Their production on June 10 at the Gate House Theater was very minimalist. There were no accessories, along with simple side lighting that mostly went from “falling” to bright like a spotlight (with some exceptions). Costumes were austere, usually neutral in color as they might be in a police state or institution. With such simplicity of staging and costume, he drew attention to each movement of the dancers, to their slightest muscular contractions! Such a focus on the dancers could only be so effective because of their high degree of professionalism. Not only did they know their steps and how to execute them, but they “were” the dance.
There was a predominant stylistic tendency of dramatic expressive movements juxtaposed with a kind of “restriction”. Some movements were free and fluid, with so many movements that seemed to be “surrounded” by an unseen force, giving it “Orwellian” overtones.
The first dance, Unmoved, performed by Ellis, was featured in the program about how we can be moved to overcome limits when we see a friend overstep them. The dancer danced to ‘talk’, sometimes even just silence, which made it ‘surreal’, perhaps suggesting that it is through ‘dreaming’ that we can overcome barriers in our thoughts.
In Margolick’s article, Bunker’s description of the program describes it as “the resilience, strength, and relentless pressure on the female body over generations.” The accompanying music sounded “like a computer”. Margolicks’ movements were sometimes mechanical, as well as movements that seemed to be trying to break free, perhaps from an element of “ones and zeros” control. The dancer struggles to follow her own rhythm in a limiting and oversimplified medium.
In Woman Walking (away), Ellis seems to move in a kind of gelatinous slime that limits her movements to super slow motion, which contrasts with other movements that were almost “epileptic”. With her back for most of the dance, she is a “mystery woman”. She’s a woman trying to move forward, but she’s really stepping back (towards the audience) on a somewhat ambiguous “personal journey.”
Dance can be a form of poetry. The position and movement of the body are like expressive words with, often, several levels of meaning.
In the fourth dance, titled Trace Elements, performed by Margolick, she begins to dance on silence. The limiting element comes into play in the form of someone’s voice spouting out Nazi propaganda. The “freedom element” or “self-realization element” was the dancer singing a Jewish song. Although this performance was very historic, it is certainly relevant today with events such as the invasion of Ukraine or the overrun of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
In the final piece, Fortress, the two dancers performed together. It all started with the dancers in a symbiotic embrace, much like that of a mother with her very young child. There followed a series of conflicts and reconciliations, which could be symbolic of a child’s or an individual’s journey towards growth and self-realization. Eventually, the movements became larger and less intimate, until the dancers “marched like soldiers in circles to the rhythm of the drums of the firing squad”. External societal forces seem to be taking over, making us “cogs in the societal machine”.
The evening was a somewhat dystopian commentary on our existence, but one that was masterfully done.
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