Revolve Dance Company: Premieres6


Wake by Matt Dippel - Revolve Dance Company | Photo by David Bullanday Photography.
Wake by Matt Dippel - Revolve Dance Company | Photo by David Bullanday Photography



Revolve Dance Company is the kind of ensemble that makes dancing look effortless when you know full well it isn’t. On Friday, December 10 they made this abundantly clear to a packed Barnevelder Movement/Arts audience with their sixth full-length concert, Premieres6.

The performance included, you guessed it, six premieres with works by foundational members, Amy Cain, Dawn Dippel, and Matt Dippel, plus guest choreography by Houston dance artist, Lindsey McGill, and nationally known choreographer, Wes Veldink, a frequent Revolve collaborator.

The eleven-member company’s repertoire is decidedly contemporary and somewhere in the jazz genus, but they show restraint when it comes to movement pyrotechnics, particularly for a professional company born and cultivated at a suburban competitive dance studio. All of the overstated power moves and flashy stuff are MIA, unless you consider consistently good dancing, flash.

In the middle of a mostly mellow lineup, Matt Dippel’s Wake is a welcome diversion. Opening under the midnight blues of Jeremy Choate’s contoured lighting, the company sits bowed and kneeling like monks before eventually engulfing Dawn Dippel in a pulsing, dystopian but not quite menacing mob. Ms. Dippel’s flame red hair shines like a beacon in the half-light hues, but it is her command of the stage that makes it difficult to tear your eyes away.

Science revealed recently that Earth’s moon does, in fact, hold water – more than we ever thought, actually. Yet, when has the moon not ‘held water’ for those that look upon it? Lindsey McGill’s romantic ode to moon gazing, …when the moon holds water, is layered with articulated, if not mysterious, gesture. At first it whispers, inviting witnesses to a private slow dance between dancers Amy Cain and Matt Dippel. Nuzzling, tracing, and measuring both the corporeal presence and the space once occupied by the other, the duo are folded into the geometric undulations of the full company. The choreography builds to a splash of unison at its climax, then wanes like the lunar surface, all under the ever-present double orbs in Choate’s orange heavens.

Ms. Cain’s Of This World is an exploration of the four terrestrial elements, capped with an earnest coda set to Antony & The Johnsons’ rhapsodic lament for the natural world. Houston Ballet Academy instructor and former HB dancer, Beth Everitt completed a goddess-like Air trio that also included Cain and Dawn Dippel. But, it is Matt Dippel and Lauren Difede who almost single-handedly cleanse the work of platitude with their breathtaking partnering as Water. (Jennifer Stricklin performed with Dippel in the Water duet for Saturday’s performance.)

Dawn Dippel’s Restful Retreat has familial charm and lives up to its title, though a jumble of images and props sometimes amount to contextual clutter. Everest featured three of Revolve’s junior company members and guest performances by the Senior Performance Company of North Harris Performing Arts, the studio co-owned by multiple Revolve Dance Company members. The dancers looked at home among professionals even if the dance in this context amounted to an exclamation point that NHPA is running a top-notch program. Veldink’s lyrical And I Love You, Bye is winsome but doesn’t fight hard enough to be more notable than its accompaniment. It was Cain and Ms. Dippel that demonstrated they could rival a song as big as Florence and The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over in a go-for-broke torrent of movement that morphed into a curtain call on steroids.

Contemporary dance can sometimes be identified by its boring apparel parade of pants and tunics. Therefore, deserving of mention is dancer and resident costumer, Jane Thayer who works with each choreographer to create a mosaic of costumes that manage to be individual and sometimes even surprising without being ostentatious.

Revolve Dance Company puts on a satisfying show that runs with the same kind of precision shown in the dancing. Their work is imaginative without breaking any rules. A homegrown collective, Revolve’s members are easily some of the best contemporary dancers performing in Houston and can be counted on to impress with a dignified elegance.


Reprinted courtesy Dance Source Houston


Ros Warby’s Monumental Full of Surprises

Ros Warby -- MonumentalLast evening the down-pouring rain in Houston ceased for a few hours. Day had turned to night throughout a drenching storm but, as I drove to Wortham Center to see Ros Warby’s solo dance work, Monumental, the low-lying sun returned to bid farewell. Regarding the performance, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew Warby to be an Australian contemporary dance artist. I knew the work utilized bird imagery and included references to Swan Lake. On all three points, I was informed correctly. Yet, though I went in with little expectation, Warby’s work continually greeted me with the unexpected.

The birdlike gestures and postures, I had anticipated. The movement was detailed and fleeting and mesmerizing. I wondered if at any moment Warby would take flight as if startled by a passerby.  I was aware that I would see projected footage of birds – stock images from Canadian educational films according to video artist and collaborator, Margie Medlin. What I had not presumed was that the dancer, herself, would be captured on film like a wildlife video specimen, complete with long-held close-ups of the eyes and neck as she moved or glared, seemingly incognizant yet instinctively aware of her witnesses.

Also unforeseen was the depth of integration between dancer, imagery, and sound. In fact “solo,” in this case, is barely applicable. Warby is rarely alone in the space though there are almost uncomfortable moments where musical accompaniment and moving pictures withdraw, leaving her vulnerable in the silence. She appears beside her own duplicate, sometimes materializing as the antithesis to her White Swan in black tutu and bodice. Innocence on one hand, dark regality on the other. Throughout the work the projected images move and shift like set pieces. At one point Warby is framed by her own legs, towering on either side like two monuments. No, there is nothing solitary about this work.

Ros Warby (soldier) -- MonumentalAnd, before I paint a picture of only serene, cascading images, I want to mention the surprising humor and fascinating oddities Warby presents in Monumental. I was caught completely unaware as the dancer brought forth her own voice. It took me a moment to recognize, even despite the movement of Warby’s lips, that the seamless flow of sound layered upon Helen Mountfort’s single cello was being produced live. She warbled and sighed as a distressed swan in syllables that were so near to language yet nonsensical. She vocalized again later as the soldier, another archetype pilfered from classical ballet disassembled and reformed for the work. Only later did I discover that much of this mix of guttural rhythm and movement was improvised, explaining why it seemed so fresh and spontaneous, why it seemed a surprise even to Warby herself when she called for “Attention!,” the only recognizable word spoken that evening.

I’m still pondering what the dance meant. Not its intention, for I rarely look for this in contemporary dance, but what it meant to me. I felt every bit the observer of a different species of movement and of dance. As a result, my personal connection to the work still seems uncertain. As commanded, however, Ros Warby has my attention.

Photos by Jeff Busby