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Performance Review: Method Dance

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Bradley Michaud’s Method Contemporary Dance Company opened up its fourth season with a three-night stand at the Diavolo Dance Space in the Brewery Arts Complex this past weekend. Having seen last year’s evening length premiere, I was happy to see the choreographer’s growth as a dance maker and the evolution of his company.

The best moments were in Michaud’s solo, MANIFESTO, which he subtitles A piece I made about some things I believe. Walking around the stage in a sleeveless dark blue T-shirt, black kneepads and the top half of gray sweat pants, we got to see how this inventive choreographer works. Crackling the bones in his feet, wrists, hands and fingers, he silently demonstrates how he thinks of movement, executes the idea, extends the action and then moves on to the next thought. While the exact choices he made may even have been created on the stage, the structure seemed planned and is probably how this man works by himself in the studio. With no sound accompaniment, we got to hear his breathing, as well as his groans of effort. Though many of his corporeal choices were interesting to witness, I felt a bit unsatisfied by the brevity of the dancing. Perhaps serving as a teaser for what was to come, the one-movement-at-a-time format had a little too much punctuation for a sustained phrase.

The director offered two duets the evening I saw the show. In DENVER, two men (Michaud and Jay Bartley) were dressed in jeans, sneakers and tank tops. The dancers physically played with camaraderie, competition, support and conflict. Against a sweet acoustic guitar and female vocal song, the men cradled, caressed and revolved round each other and then, when the song ended, they faced off for run and gun, throw and catch partnering, ending up with the two toasting bottles of beer. Ah . . . men.

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CLAUDIA v3 (performed by Nicole Cox and Jessica Harper) was a lot more abstract. Individually, the two women displayed their strengths beautifully. Long extensions, back, arm, leg and foot articulations, wrap-around oneself contortions while standing on only one leg and sudden hard drops to the floor from the air (an almost signature movement that happened almost too many times) revealed the prowess of these performers. As they next partnered each other, their relationship became more focal and, unfortunately for me, the power of the piece was slightly undermined.

Finally, a group of five women and a man played with new movement and some familiar references in THIS IS NOT AN EXIT. To an energizing score by Nouvelle Vague (the music credits were unclear), I was impressed with how the choreographer divided the performers into solos, duets, simultaneous duets, full company line-ups and domino-like arrangements that alternately exploded on the stage and then reigned in its force. All of the dancers were young, strong, compelling and voracious, including Kalani McManus, Chelsea Asman, Stephanie Jamieson, Karen Reynolds and the previously mentioned female warriors. Hang tight til the next eruption of this bright new company.

photo by Paolo Focardi and Tim Agler, courtesy of the company