The Speed of Sound opens Texture Contemporary Ballet’s 8th Season


Texture Contemporary Ballet opened its eighth season with The Speed of Sound at the New Hazlett Theatre on Friday evening. The program consisted of two premieres; Glass Walls with music composed by Phillip Glass and Forth Road Bridge with songs by Scottish band Frightened Rabbit.

Glass Walls, choreographed by Texture’s Founder and Artistic Director Alan Obuzor,  is a long-form ballet without a narrative structure. As such, interpretation is up to the individual audience members. As we enter the theatre, the scene is set by thin white lines, bright at the audience edge of the performance space and faintly visible upstage. They are not parallel lines or lines in a grid pattern, yet they do intersect at seemingly odd angles. The lines merge, connect and separate. The stage is awash in deep blue light. The lines and the blue light are our only clues; a web, perhaps a prison cell or a cage

As the lights come up, the dancers are revealed in almost crab, or spider-like movements as the scurry across the stage. The closest web of lines is removed as the corps of nine dancers in pointe shoes including Obuzor morph into their dance roles.  The pointe shoes serve to create a kind of gender-neutral environment. Obuzor is known for his abstract works, and Glass Walls is no exception. The abstraction is what makes the work so compelling throughout the forty-five-minute performance. Just as you think you have it figured out, he takes you for another turn, so graceful and fluid in its movement that the new realization of his intent slowly washes over you.

While uncredited in the program, costume design/selection is worth mentioning here. It’s indigo, women in leotards, he in trunks, with a twist. The leotards have almost self-luminous panels in iridescent shades of purple, silver and blue. Perhaps a clue, metamorphosis of being, as in butterflies? The iridescence captivates as it moves with the dancers’ form.

Describing a dance without narrative is a bit like describing wine; connection with a hint of isolation, inclusion that leads to separation, growth that is followed by contraction. Obuzor’s Glass Walls is a beautiful flowing work that will keep you thinking, analyzing and engaged.


Choreographer and dancer Kelsey Bartman

The second half of the evening is Forth Road Bridgechoreographed by Texture’s Associate Artistic Director Kelsey Bartman. The work is inspired by the tragic death of Scott Hutchison, frontman for Frightened Rabbit. Hutchison wrote the song “Floating in the Fort”, ironically the location he chose for his suicide.

Hutchison’s songs are underlying sad and melancholy and yet “romanticize pretty painful times” in his songwriting. Bartman with the aid of the Frightened Rabbit’s music and lyrics, delves into the depression and loss.

The dances here seem less structured and unpretentious. They make lovely use of the entire space including the catwalks on the rear stage wall. The “bedtime” duet was particularly moving to me.

Texture’s corps of dancers (Obuzor, Bartman, Hanna Buggy, Allegra Golembiewski, Rachael Harman, Madeline Kendall, Katie Miller, Erin Patterson, and Alexandra) is varied in age and stature (although not as widely in gender and race) which helps make the connection to the audience in both of these emotional pieces.

The music is the force behind both of these pieces of choreography with the dancer’s movements and the music perfectly orchestrated together. The performance is made even more potent by the unity of the elements; music, choreography, costume, scenic and lighting.

The scenic element is predominantly the stage floor as blank canvas augmented by the architectural aspects of the New Hazlett. Lighting Designer Bob Steineck paints the floor with a seemingly unlimited selection of color and pattern as he sculpts the dancers’ form and movement in what has to be one of the best examples of lighting designs for dance.

Texture’s The Speed of Sound brings the element of humanity to the music and life through dance.

Performances now through Sunday 30th at the New Hazlett Theatre in the North Side. For tickets visit  https://www.showclix.com/events/9165

George Hoover got his start in theatre in Miami when his family ran the Coconut Grove Playhouse. His career encompasses a variety of work in both the design and technical side of motion pictures, live theatre, and television. George is a three-time Emmy Award winner, member of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Broadcasting & Cable Technology Leadership Award winner, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers Life Fellow, and most importantly a passionate theatre person and generally handy guy.

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