Review by Gretchen Holmes
Experimental Dance Alert: J'Sun Howard and Adam Rose emerge from their LinkUp residencies with strong/strange work
This weekend, Links Hall featured work by its fall LinkUp Residency Artists J'Sun Howard and Adam Rose. Trained as dancers, both artists present collaborative movement-based works that challenge the body's expressive range. The program provides an opportunity to
experience two distinct, personal approaches to this sometimes tedious style of dance, and both pieces demonstrate an ambitious desire to tackle complex social experiences using the simple gestures and controlled movements central to dance traditions, such as butoh, which inform the work.
The program begins with J'Sun Howard's Cry, an ensemble piece developed with collaborators Angela Gronroos, Margaret Morris, Ni'Ja Whitson, and Awilda Rodreiguez Lora. As the dancers move through the space, an animated video projection (created by Sharon Rutledge with sound by Amber Rachelle Lewis) behind them shifts from a lone, quivering tree to a city skyline, evoking some public sphere where the dancers' emotional expressions become quite vulnerable and exposed. Throughout the piece, the dancers work within a fairly narrow range of gestures and tempi, enveloping their bodies in a cloud of frustration and claustrophobia. The piece culminates when, one by one, the dancers transform their frustrated movements into full-body sobs. Though this transition is a bit sudden, Cry stashes away little bits of tension from its first moments; each performer's moans and shudders reflect a body finally succumbed to slow-burning failure, anger, sadness, and fear.
Adam Rose's Antitrust Circus builds an absolutely horrifying picture of sexuality and ritual that will probably give you nightmares--albeit very artful nightmares. Rose's collection of demonic circus freaks dances through a series of vignettes featuring solo, duet, and ensemble moments accompanied by Noé Cuéllar on the shruti box. Cuéllar's sound design and ensemble member Jose Hernandez's costumes provide spot-on creepiness. Hernandez's own costume (a sort of zombie satyr outfit featuring a stringy merkin sewn onto lycra shorts and a goat mask) is a real highlight, topped only by his uncanny use of his unwieldy-looking body. Rounded out by Silvita Diaz Brown, Craig Donavin, Catherine Jones, Katie Petrunich, the ensemble seems well-balanced under Rose's direction, and his choreography sketches characters and narratives while remaining decidedly experimental. As emerging dance artists, both Rose and Howard demonstrate vision and conviction, and their work promises to engage its audience in new challenges.