huggers: Members of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company.
You Like to Dance?
Mae G. Banner
Sinopoli Dance Company
Egg, April 13
With her first full-evening work, Ellen Sinopoli and her dance
company have come of age.
Over 10 years of dancemaking in the Capital Region, Sinopoli
become known for her astute choice of collaborators and for
dances that play off materials of the visual arts–-everything
from upended rusty bedsprings to a malleable swatch of yellow
Saturday night at the Egg, we saw a long dance with a long
name: From the mind/of a single long vine/one hundred opening
lives, in which the eight dancers related so intimately
with Jim Lewis’ set of carved cedar objects that the dancer’s
bodies and the wooden benches and tools combined as powerful
sculptures, part human, part glowing wood.
Lewis, a furniture maker who specializes in objects for churches,
filled the stage with roughly carved, African-influenced pieces,
including a shield that stood on two curved legs, a set of
large oval scoops that looked like small canoes, a long bench,
and a rectangular seat with a handle like a suitcase. Through
the 11 selections of From the mind, a community of
dancers grouped and regrouped on and around the upstage bench,
while others came forward to manipulate the suitcase or scoops,
suggesting stories of leaving and returning or of working
The most moving section was “The Betrothed,” a duet for Amy
Carpinello and Marc Weiss performed on a “marriage bench”
carved and scooped to hold two people. Rising in bursts of
movement, sometimes in concert and sometimes away from each
other, the two explored and tempted each other in a courtship
ritual that was formal and erotic at once. Music by Ali Jihad
Racy had a sensuous Middle Eastern rhythm that propelled the
sinuous flow of the couple’s moves. Separately and together,
the dancers made shapes that echoed the curves of the bench.
This duet, complete in itself, will stand alone in future
concerts by the troupe.
So will “Calabash Women,” a trio for Isabelle J. DiGiovanni,
Kim Engel and Deb Rutledge, who wielded their large scoops
to vocal, percussion and string music by Rokia Traore. The
women sat in the hollows of the scoops, spun them with one
bare foot, rocked them, cradled them, laid them like babies
along their cheeks. Buoyed by the music, given power by the
angled shapes of their clay-colored overskirts and the shadowy
lighting, the women became one with the wood.
Not only were the dancers and sculptures well-mated, but their
moves were enhanced by Sinopoli’s choice of African and African-based
music, Kim Vanyo’s sculptural costumes in ochre and brick
red tones, and Jason Sinopoli’s meditatively low lighting.
Sinopoli’s production values always have been meticulous.
This time, the elements cohered to create a near-mystical
More than in previous dances, Sinopoli suggested characters
and brief narratives in the selections of From the mind.
Samantha Ball Karmel opened the work in a solo with the
suitcase. She swung the case by its handle and let it lead
her offstage as if she were leaving home. This act made way
for a group dance on the massive upstage bench. Here, the
dancers swayed in unison or wrapped one arm around their heads,
a motif that Sinopoli repeated later. Some standing, some
sitting, the group of five dancers became a living sculpture
that gave extra meaning to the wooden bench and drew power
Later, Yukiko Sumiya was a skittering, playful child who danced
away triumphantly from the three Calabash Women.
Two new dancers were especially interesting to watch. Carpinello
was slim and stretchy as an elastic band, and Rutledge had
a sturdy grace that lent a serious presence to her movements.
The African music, repetitive and hypnotic, held the audience
in a cradle of sound. Only when Sinopoli turned to English
lyrics by Sweet Honey in the Rock did I feel that the words
were imposing a story on the dance. Still, the From the
mind represents a huge step for Sinopoli. It is her most
ambitious work so far, and leaves a strong impression. She
has tied together elements that might have flown apart and
has made a world for the dancers to inhabit.