The Intimacy of Informality

Last night I attended Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance's Summer Soiree, the second event of its 2011 Salon Series. It was truly an evening of artistic innovation and collaboration, complete with live music, visual art—and of course, dancing.

 

The Soiree took place on the third floor of the Chelsea Art Museum, an expansive space overlooking the Hudson, flooded with sun, and filled with sculptures, paintings and photographs. Informal in nature, the evening cultivated an intimate environment for the audience. With seating at seemingly random intervals around the room and live musicians centrally located in the space, audience members were encouraged to interact with each other and their surroundings. 

 

The first piece was a duet entitled And then I knew ‘twas Wind…, danced by Ramona Kelley and Joshua Palmer. From the quiet entrance and immediate tension (established by several moments of stillness), the piece had a contemplative tone and hypnotic quality, with rhythmic partnering, solo work and impressive integration of the floor and unconventional space. What was most striking to me was the intensity of Kelley and Palmer’s focus. In an intimate, up-close setting, it can be easy for a performance to break down without the security of distance to veil slip-ups or wavering commitment from the dancers. This was not the case with CLD—the physical and emotional connection between the dancers was felt from start to finish, and the execution of their movement was clean and technical. The dancers paid close attention to the detailed choreography, which was filled with small and deliberate moments that spoke for themselves.

 

The program instructed the audience to move to the back gallery at the conclusion of the first piece, and after we had taken our seats, Satie Suite began, a compilation of excerpts from Menage (choreographed by Lavagnino in 2010). Two couples walked into the room to spirited piano music. The quartet was dynamic and evolving, as the dancers moved with seduction in constantly changing pairings. Again, the commitment of the dancers to each other was evident in their thoughtful interactions with one another and unfailing focus. 

 

The evening concluded with a restaging of Fell of Night, originally choreographed in 2008. It consisted of four duets, entitled Memory, Loss, Sever, and Solace, and looked into the emotions that accompany loss.  Each duet had a distinct tonal quality to it, and each dancer a deliberate identity. I think the individual identity of each dancer is at the heart of what makes Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance so effective and moving—yes, the dancers have sound technique and a collective weightlessness to the way they move, but the choreography allows room for interpretation. It affords the dancers a range of artistic freedom, the results of which are just lovely to watch.