Armitage Gone's World Premiere of Three Theories at Cedar Lake on Thursday June 3rd undoubtedly proves their staying power. Impetus for this work came from choreographer and artistic director Karol Armitage's reading of Brian Green's best selling book on theoretical physics, The Elegant Universe. The book focuses on the conflict between Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics vs. the newest String Theory. This piece, using dancers as physical icons for this conflict, breathes stunning clarity into otherwise less tangible concepts. Had physics class been this intriguing in high school I would have been a far more apt student. Armitage's confident dancers have no limit to their physical prowess, and in moments of silence, hearing a pin drop would have echoed loudly in the packed space.
Armitage describes the first piece Relativity as 'twisting traditional vertical and horizontal lines of dance to expose the poetry of Einstein's theory.' Gorgeous strings pierce the echo of appreciation's silence as Kristina Bethel-Blunt and Leonides D. Arpon ooze sensuality. In their duet limbs intertwine with care so certain it's as if they're handling a time bomb. This piece favors exposure of sinewy lines with the women donning black bikinis and the men black boxer briefs. Concave shapes perforate the bulk of Armitage's work in this piece. When 10 of the 11 company members disperse into duets their undulating qualities lead into writhing that transfixes the audience. When Bethel-Blunt and Arpon return to reprise their duet, their connectivity stands tall with Bethel-Blunts Amazon qualities and Arpon's strong grounded command. The piece ends with a unison section so mesmerizing I barely notice William Isaac's downstage presence as he performs a solo over the undercurrent of the company. A pre-cursor to his exemplary role in Quantum, the second piece, a second viewing would lead my eyes to his limbs immediately.
In Quantum, the time bomb Bethel-Blunt and Arpon handled so attentively explodes in a fashion that makes destruction seductive. At the crux of this are Isaac and Emily Wagner in a duet thickly infused with sexuality and a 'don't you dare look away' attitude that cannot be denied fruition. Wagner is a snake en pointe with piercing eyes, Princess Leia buns, impeccable technique and with her head permanently cocked forward on her spine, she has an uncanny ability to get as close to the audience as possible. The duet comes down center at one point and Wagner nearly leaps onto the lap of a front row viewer - and not to his disappointment in the least. Clifton Taylor's lighting drowns them in fluorescent light only to switch to a blackout - and when the lights return the dancers are found in a new position across the stage as if controlled by a switch. No detail goes forgotten as Wagner and Isaac's ooze about the stage with acute sharpness and exaction. Rhys Chatham's original score features 100 drums and guitars whose cacophony give way to exclamatory extremities that gain momentum with every moment. Best described as magical, the crazy orchestral crashes fuel the tenacious take-no-prisoners-prowess of every dancer. Dubbed the "Punk Ballerina" by Vanity Fair, Armitage demands the same attitude of her dancers and each delivers. Prim holds no bearing in this work that uses volatility like air to get their message to the masses. Another highlight is watching Mei-Hua Wang being held in a straddle above Marlon Taylor-Wiles head only to be turned 360 degrees at a crescendo's dictation. Far outnumbered by the instruments that accompany them Armitage's dancers evoke the strength of an army.
Perhaps because this theory is the youngest, the final piece derived from String Theory is the most lackluster. Largely due to the intense impression Quantum leaves, String seems to wane in the memorable arena. The stunning Megumi Eda serves as "the one dancer consumed by big volumes of geometry influencing the company" as Armitage states in her intro speech. Enveloping subtle movement with sinewy limbs the company supports Eda with largely unison phrases. Settling into submissive poses on the floor, the heat created throughout the eve leaves beads of sweat dripping and flying through the air. Melting into mellowness, the dancers are bathed in warm light revealing each pulsating muscle in the final stage picture. The company circles around Eda with outstretched arms yearning for her.
In one evening, Armitage cultivates envy in the eyes of each person at Cedar Lake. Rising simultaneously to their feet, the audience applauds through several rounds of audience bows. Go see Armitage Gone! to connect to physics with the same desperation and transformative energy Armitage conducts, so generously, with her audiences.
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