On a rainy Friday evening at “Dance at the Odyssey,” and in keeping with the mission of Rebecca Lemme, Founder and Artistic Director of, Acts of Matter dance repertory company, we were treated to the joy of their discoveries and the importance of their mission to unite us. all It was clear that to Lemme, dance is a reflection of her deep commitment to process and collaboration. The engagement of her dancer-performers not only showed their keen ability to move, but to move us both vocally and dramatically.
Lemme’s first offering, was a poignant excerpt of a longer piece called “I/D”, danced by Lemme, and Taylor Worden as the younger self. It combined the spoken word with music and movement and told the story of the life and struggle of a woman looking back at her feelings, her family and, in particular, her father. The music of Laurie Anderson foreshadowed her loss and growth.
The performers, were engaging, often trading places using each other’s movements to impel them into an emotional catharsis. Perhaps, the relationship, younger to older, could have been explored and shown clearer connection, since it was unclear how the two women were related to each other. The spoken words were helpful in deciphering the poignant story but towards the end of the piece the music covered the words and therefore the denouement. This left the audience wondering; wondering about what was being said, about the relationship of the two women, about the resolution of the piece. Hopefully it would have answered some questions as Worden moved into darkness at the end. The potential of this piece is clear. However, since it probes such a personal theme, further exploration promises to make this a powerful, moving and introspective piece.
“Emergence” was reminiscent of puppets, or even puppies, with bodies bound together and mobilized, shuffling and dodging each other’s limbs as they moved down the stage seemingly unable to find enough space to breathe. This was a fascinating piece that slowly began to untie the bodies like a rubber band, allowing them to stretch out a bit and then quickly flinging them back together. It progressed to the untethering of the puppet-like creatures to individuate, showing their personal brilliance. Orlando Agawin, in his ability to move with strength and focus, had a strong insistent presence. Jessie Lee Thorne, with her puppy-like freewheeling movements was perfect for this quirky endeavor. Kayla Johnson, often seemingly to defer to the others, still was a good supportive member. The audience went from snickering at the agitations and chatterings, to realizing the message of the lemmings and puppetry of today, and how difficult the pulling away can be.
The next piece, “Listen” by Brandon Coleman, appeared to deliver a message of acceptance and listening. It yearned to be understood by the audience. However, it seemed to ramble on aimlessly perhaps expecting the audience to find the hidden meaning. This made it simply a dance piece with good intentions but an unclear message that never really clarified itself.
After a 15-minute respite and gathering back into our seats, we were treated to one of the highlights of the evening, a romantic offering of “Love Letter”. The songs of Santo and Johnny, Richie Valens, George Gershwin, Nat King Cole, were among the heart-rending offerings that supported and enhanced the final piece.
Out of this gumbo of feelings, each performer on stage added to the uniqueness of movement, emotion and song, transforming the euphoria that resonated beyond the final strains of the piece. As it began, first one, then two, then three and more filled the stage all flirting with the audience in their own special way; shy looks of admiration, staring, bold come-ons, personal to each performer, broke the 4th wall which made it fun and engaging for the audience. Then, as if out of the shadows, we hear the dreamy voice of Kearian Giertz, singing Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” transporting us back to the 40’s when romance was so immediate. It took us on a journey exploring the range of romance starting with the lulling two-step. Swaying bodies wrapped around each other, changing partners and places in this rapturous moment, and Haihua Chiang watching, separate, lonely not being a part of it.
This piece journeyed through romantic love, unrequited, forbidden and even puppy love. One special moment was when Joan Holly Padeo,’s light breathy voice sang “Crazy”, so moving, so unpretentious. Then her transformation to a blood-red skirt firing her up with two of her fellow dancers into a lively trio piece. And forbidden love found Shane Raiford donning a skirt, showing his dance chops with effortless bravura.Also wonderful was the vocal contribution, Nat King Cole’s “Smile” sung by Kearian Giertz, culminating into two young men having their moment on the dance floor.
While watching this piece “Love Letter” had so many wonderful, dance, acting and vocal elements that it turned out to be a gift of nostalgia and an excellent piece to end this evening of Dance at the Odyssey. Lemme’s “Be Seen” was well worth coming out in the rain for.
Dance at the Odyssey continues through February 9. For information and tickets, click here.
For information on Rebecca Lemme and Acts of Matter, click here.