REVIEW: Sansara's first show should trust its audiences to get it

A moment from "Flesh" Photo by Photo credit: Bob Kane

SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY OF SANSARA'S FIRST PRODUCTION, "ASHES."

 

On Saturday, a new modern company called Sansara delivered a well-intended evening of dance with social and political flavor. There were some nice moments in "Ashes," some beautiful gestures and interesting thinking in these five works. Too often, though, these original pieces were over thought. And the group's ambitions and its executions weren't always in tune.

I liked Lauren Andrus' piece "Flesh." Andrus launched five dancers wearing only underwear into a meditation on the mythical faults we find in our bodies. The pacing was good: Dancers weren't hurrying on to the next step. Effortless. And it offered up a message that touched every woman in that audience.

"The Disparity Rules," which was choreographed by Trish Doyle-Stahl and artistic director Camille Loftin, was an appealing exploration of class. Unfortunately, though, it was not just dancing. A long series of slides -- images of royalty and quote by thinkers like Karl Marx -- put a period on that sentence before the dancing even began.

"Disparity" was almost superfluous.

I'm intrigued by the political bent of these works, but one piece, "The Earth Only Endures," was a cautionary tale about ownership.

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More imagery, most of turn-of-the-century Native Americans, and a voiceover monologue from HBO's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." The trajectory of the work is unambiguous.

Then, the dancers took the floor. They earnestly moved through Kaitlin Boyer's choreography, which featured Vanessa Jaramillo, apparently the only dancer of color in the company, as its serious centerpiece.

And all that might have been fine, but the dancers were dressed like Halloween indians from 1950. Feathers. Bells. Beads. Fringe on short dresses.

All together it made for a summer-camp naive package.

Without the film and the monologue, with neutral costumes and the anonymous Indian soundtrack, I think I would have gotten the point just fine. And enjoyed it a whole lot more.

Still, I look forward to where this first production takes them. Hopefully, it's a place where they trust their choreography, their abilities and their audiences, who can probably figure out the meaning behind it.

 

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