Performing arts review: Adele Myers at the American Dance Festival

CorrespondentJuly 1, 2014 

Adele Myers and Dancers.

IVAN SINGER

  • Details

    What: Adele Myers and Dancers, presented by the American Dance Festival

    Where: Reynolds Industries Theater, Bryan University Center, Duke University, 125 Science Drive.

    When: 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday

    Tickets: $27

    Info: 919-684-4444 or tickets.duke.edu

The American Dance Festival allows audiences to sample a wide variety of modern dance each summer, from companies popular with casual fans to choreography for the aficionado. Adele Myers falls into the latter category, requiring audiences to focus on introspective details and to be familiar with the workings of dancers’ bodies for full appreciation of her work.

Myers says several factors influenced her 2013 piece, “Einstein’s Happiest Thought.” First, she wanted to explore her fear of heights and the risk of falling; second, she wanted to investigate the different ways people experience the same time and space while anticipating risks. The title comes from Albert Einstein’s statement that his happiest thought in life was to contemplate such time-space experiences.

The through-line in this 50-minute work is a young woman in a yellow jumpsuit holding an ever-lengthening yellow rope behind her as she slowly makes her way from the right-hand side toward a tall A-frame ladder on the left side. As she progresses (and eventually climbs the ladder), four women in black jumpsuits perform various feats of balance and stress, from seeing how far they can lean over on one tiptoe before falling to leaping on one foot across the stage and over the yellow rope. Several stress-making sequences include furiously windmilling arms and bicycling motions while lying on the floor.

There are no big dramatic sequences or flashy steps. Instead, the dancers work though various exercises, their heavy breathing, involuntary grunts and sounds of feet on the floor adding to the human atmosphere. The audience can relate to risk-taking here as the woman in yellow ascends unprotected to the top of the tall ladder, echoed by another dancer standing atop a smaller ladder with arms raised while in a blinding spotlight. There also are sequences of dancers running backwards and performing energetic movements in complete darkness at the edge of the stage.

Visual interest is maintained by Kathy Couch’s lighting changes, sometimes darkly ominous, sometimes sunnily bright. Josh Quillen’s score of electronic bleeps, minimalist phrases and hypnotic drumming supplies an “alternate worlds” mood.

Although the piece has an academic feel, it can reward the experienced viewer in its attempts to show the body’s reaction to gravity and precariousness.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

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