dance: Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company celebrates the Egg’s
Mae G. Banner
Sinopoli Dance Company
The Egg, April 12
Remember that old day-camp rouser: “The more we get together,
the happier we’ll be?” Well, it’s true. A slew of the region’s
most talented musicians turned out to celebrate the Ellen
Sinopoli Dance Company’s 12th year as resident modern-dance
company at the Egg. Their compositions—commissioned by the
Egg to mark the venue’s 25th anniversary—lifted the dance
concert to empyrean heights.
The musicians, all of whom performed vibrant solos and made
Sinopoli’s choreography sing, were Gideon Freudmann, electronic
cello; Donald Knaack, junk and recycled objects; Carl Landa,
piano and melodica; Brian Melick, percussion; Siobhan Quinn,
vocalist; and Maria Zemantauski, flamenco guitar. More about
Sinopoli is at the top of her game. Her company, which now
includes two men and five women, is dancing with a common
spirit, a velvety look that cloaks steely energy.
In Falling, a new work with music composed and performed
by Melick and Zemantauski, you could see how the dancers molded
the space around them, not slicing the air, but pressing and
pushing it as if they were working a mound of resistant clay.
The musicians sat in the orchestra pit facing the dancers,
creating a climate of mutual inspiration.
Responding to Zemantauski’s rising and falling arpeggios and
Melick’s ripples and thwacks on the Middle Eastern dumbek
and Guinean box-drum, the five dancers were drawn into clusters
that split into quick pairings and reformed into a tight group
that stepped backward to the rim of the stage and broke, this
time into patterns of two or three. Darren McIntyre’s turning
jumps made exciting exclamation points.
Mingling song and the spoken word, Siobhan Quinn gave voice
to Winged, a new dance for the full company. Quinn
interwove poems by Rilke, Blake and Yeats—all on themes of
bird and flight—with a Southern Appalachian hymn and her own
composition, “Wing on Wing,” to a poem of Rilke.
The dancers spread across the stage, making wings of their
arms and balancing on one foot. In one section, McIntyre and
Marc Weiss both partner Yukiko Sumiya, while the others lie
on their backs, arms outstretched. Sumiya, a lovely addition
to the company, dances with delicate strength and glowing
presence as she threads her way among her companions.
for Four (or I’m Putting My Head in the Oven Now)
had McIntyre and Samantha Ball Karmel riding a pair of upholstered
chairs on wheels as if they were piloting Zambonis on an ice
rink. Propelling the chairs with their hands or feet, doing
headstands on the comfy cushions, or jumping over a chair’s
back to land sitting upright, they had all kinds of fun with
this one-note joke.
Carl Landa’s tango-y, jazzy music kept things moving, but
the dance was a little too long and too closely tied to the
music. I began to wonder what he exit strategy was in this
battle of the sexes.
The glory of live music gave dimension, shape and purpose
to two familiar Sinopoli works, Regalis, which opened
the program, and Coming & Going, which closed it.
Freudmann’s composition of deep, raspy cello partnered seductively
with the dancers’ curving, elastic bodies as they formed haremlike
Glory is not too strong a word for the power of real, in-the-moment
music to transform a dance from calisthenics to art. I could
feel the energy passing back and forth between Freudmann’s
cello and the dancers.
The same palpable energy, this time from Don Knaack’s one-man
gamelan orchestra of oil drums, fly swatters, pot lids, and
plastic drainage tubing, fueled the split-leg jumps, runs,
crashes and rolls of Coming & Going. This is a
bouncy dance whose chiming, thrumming music made it absorbing,
gave it substance.
In a pre-concert panel with the musicians, Sinopoli said she
had asked them to play solos between the dances, so the audience
could get their fill of watching these artists, and, thus
sated, be ready to turn their eyes to the dancers when they
took the stage. This was an inspired idea. It transformed
the evening into an event—a generous celebration of the variety
and depth of talent in this region.
Freudmann’s polytonal composition with layers of electronic
sampling, Quinn’s compelling soprano that shifted brutally
from a traditional Irish lament to a fierce gospel howl, and
the wonderful improvisatory work of Zemantauski, Melick and
Landa piled on the riches. It was clear, too, how much the
musicians appreciated each other.
Even the intermission was an event. Knaack led the audience,
which included a good share of teens, in a four-part rhythm
jam on found objects. We were all banging and clapping out
our beats, smiling and feeling relaxed and expansive. A passive
audience became participants in a big family party.
Hey, we need to do this more often.