Mountain Highs at Lake Tahoe Dance Festival

Leigh Donlan reports from Lake Tahoe:

With waves gently lapping just feet from the stage, the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective kicked off the 5th annual outdoor Lake Tahoe Dance Festival on the grounds of Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City. 

Traci Finch and Constantine Baecher (Photo: Jen Schmidt)

Artistic Director Christin Hanna offered a mixed bill that successfully showcased the Collective’s diverse repertoire, with an emphasis on intricate partnering work. Of the eight pieces in the program, James Graham’s Mouse Marrow and Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit proved the most moving, while Mountainscape was the most conceptually compelling.

Graham’s exquisite duet, Mouse Marrow, is an excerpt from a larger work to be staged this fall at the ODC Theater in San Francisco. With Gaga-esque movements, the shirtless Graham and Galen Rogers delivered emotionally raw, mesmerizing and often disturbing performances in this exploration of sameness, childhood and the mystery of memory. Alternating in the roles of protector and protected, they carried each other when the other appeared compromised, too tired or too scared to go on – as if they were two halves of a self-renewing cell, separate but whole.

Bianca Bulle & Dustin True (Photo: Jen Schmidt)

Mountainscape, a visually intriguing pas de deux choreographed by Constantine Baecher and Traci Finch, encased the dancers in gray- and rust-hued hoodies with like-colored yards of fabric extending from their arms across the stage, secured to the perimeters. The soft fabric acted as paint and the movements like brush, creating stunning portraits of landscapes –  of mountains and mists – set to the music of Henryk Gorecki.

An excerpt from Year of the Rabbit, choreographed by New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck was blessed with tremendous performances from dancers Bianca Bulle and Dustin True. Set to a collaborative score by Peck and folk musician Sufjan Stevens, Year of the Rabbit was refreshing in style – rigorously classical in technique yet with a humility and informality to the movement (perhaps influenced by Peck’s SoCal roots.) The intuitive and subtle gestures simply amplified the softness and ease of True’s partnering of the lovely Bulle  – with no fuss, minimal bravura, and a steady consistency.

The Lake Tahoe Dance Collective is making an impact in the Sierras thanks to Hanna’s impeccable choices of choreography and her versatile, well-trained students. Audiences should look forward with great interest to what they bring next.

Christin Hanna and Damien Johnson (Photo courtesy Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival)

 

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