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Each to his (and her) own: Leine & Roebana Dance Company.

Alone Together

By Lynn Hasselbarth

Leine & Roebana Dance Company

The Egg, April 13

According to Dutch choreographer Harijono Roebana, classical dance can slice an egg and reproduce identical oval shapes that represent the whole. Contemporary dance, on the other hand, divides the rough surface of a potato, revealing more complex and distorted shapes. With his professional partner Andrea Leine, the couple presented an uninterrupted, show-length work titled Sporen (Traces), which dissected space with movement that was unrecognizable yet deeply satisfying.

A compilation of excerpts from Leine and Roebana’s 15-year choreographic career, Sporen featured seven brilliantly trained dancers from Europe, Canada, South Africa, and Brazil. Despite the diversity of the company, the movement was methodical and efficient in denying individual personality and heritage. The result was a unified ensemble devoted to specific movements, executing each phrase with detached conviction.

The performance offered a frantic and disjointed quality, based on precise choreography and a calculated structure. The company navigated like a school of fish, bodies passing without acknowledgment, leaving just enough distance to move fluidly and change direction instantly. Each dancer assumed a disciplined athleticism that revealed little personal interpretation. The dancers become technicians of their own bodies, devoid of romanticism and sentimentality.

The mechanical nature of the piece was evident from the start, with a solitary dancer positioned downstage, glaring outward as the audience filed into the theater. The stage was a gray space, like a chilly garage housing an unused vehicle. Other bodies emerged from offstage, pacing mindlessly while others stopped, observing the audience.

With the precision of a suddenly ignited engine, the dancers struck poses reminiscent of Greek statues amid an offensive screeching sound. The ensemble dispersed instantly, leaving a single male dancer to offer the first choreographed movements of the piece. The phrases were expansive and without resolution, a continuous “inhale” that invited the audience to experience a journey with no defined conclusion.

Marlene Wolfsberger contrasted the sprawling energy of the opening solo in a mesmerizing section that placed her undulating torso as the centerpiece. Clothed in pure white, in a billowing skirt and nearly sheer top, one was drawn immediately to her expressive rip cage and broad chest. As if in a trance, she articulated her spine in a cascade of ripples, while her limbs reacted as mere afterthoughts. When she was joined by Lia Poole and Heather Ware, the three women evoked a cool indifference, like clouds passing over the mess of human drama below.

Poised with the same reverence and nonchalance were the company’s male dancers, Ederson Rodrigues Xavier, Uri Eugenio and Tim Persent. The men depicted contemporary monks donned in floor-length skirts, in various metallic shades. They ritualistically glided across the space with little respite, much like the accompanying baroque music.

Alba Barral Fernandez was given the responsibility of destroying these moments of calm and unity with a defiant entrance, racing across the stage with limbs thrashing to a series of screeching instrumental sounds. At other times she stood, rooted in a wide stance with her right arm shooting outward on a high diagonal, head tilted up and eyes rolled back as if possessed.

This edginess was picked up by the full ensemble in a long section that drew upon a certain primal aggression. Dressed in black slacks and socks, the dancers sped through space like a fleet of tarantulas. Set to a tumbling rhythm of drums and high rolling bells, the dancers completed each movement with intense focus. Obedient to their own metronomes, each dancer would return to the side of the stage with the satisfaction of a job well done.

The lack of recognition between the dancers was suspended momentarily as two men became bound together center stage in the closing moments of the piece. With arms entangled, one body seemed to be gasping for air, drawing his torso upward against the other, who stood stoically in the background. Moments later, at the very end, a female figure leaped desperately into the arms of another dancer, finally rejecting the incessant structure with a demand for intimacy.

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