Celebrating 40 years on the move

Posted: March 16, 2009

Group Motion's 40th Anniversary show at the Painted Bride last weekend - a low-key event called "Shadow and Light" - bookended three modest dances with lovely receptions that gave longtime fans a chance to celebrate and reminisce about the company's impact on the dance scene in the South Street community and in its current location in West Philly's Community Education Center.

Group Motion's roster has changed over time, but it usually has a few senior dancers who offer continuity with German expressionist dance, with which the company has never completely cut the cord. Before coming to Philadelphia, founders Manfred Fischbeck, Brigitta Herrmann, and Helmut Gottschild all had ties to Mary Wigman's last studio in Berlin.

On the program was "A Shadow in the Aeolian Palace," by the company of former Group Motion dancer Megan Bridge and her collaborator Peter Price, with input from Group Motion's six dancers. In this and the other two pieces, the music was often more inventive than the choreography.

Bridge introduced some new dance vocabulary, with John Luna, Hedy Wyland, Marie Brown, and Lindsay Browning slithery-shouldering against one another while mincing about in small circles and parallel patterning. But my ear tuned to Price's sprightly computerized score and my eye to his video, with Bridge dancing through its watery distillations of amoebic shapes and shadows in the late painter Tom Bostelle's Brandywine Creek property. The live dancers echoed the imagery on the screen. The piece ended in an abrupt and baffling way, as if a fuse had blown.

"Courage," Herrmann's chilling work in progress inspired by the memoir of Pakistani rape victim Mukhtar Mai, has Wyland, Brown, and Browning dancing as oppressed and abused subhumans with no place to hide or rest. Matt Sharp's lighting created a drab world in which they finally tear off their imprisoning, funereal hijabs and use them like rags.

Composer Andrea Clearfield and artist Maureen Drdak traveled on horseback in Nepal to gather material for "LUNG-TA (The Windhorse)," which had its second showing in this program on Friday night, to a Network for New Music recording from the previous weekend's world premiere.

Fischbeck's choreography underscored Clearfield's 25-minute East/West composition and Drdak's wispy imagery. In Sara McCorriston's gold tie-tops and teal pants, company members prostrated themselves and traced the stage with fleetingly ritualistic patterns.

Group Motion has always employed multimedia and intercultural explorations, sometimes - as here - to mixed success. But that only affirms its risk-taking creativity.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|