Exhalations Dance Theatre Exuberantly Heralds Spring with “Equinox”

By Eva Phillips

Our bodies have ways of reminding us of their autonomy. Like vestiges of unseen worlds, our bodies are intrinsically linked to untraceable sensations and unutterable memories that lurch to life heedless to what our mind and senses are doing. Often, our bodies—our feet, our faces, our hands, our muscles—twitch, writhe and joyously spring to life to music and sounds, enlivened by impulses our brains can hardly comprehend.

The recent production of Equinox by Pittsburgh dance company Exhalations Dance Theatre (EDT) functioned both as showcase for the talents of the company members and visiting dancers, and as a sort of study in these autonomous, ecstatic movements our bodies engage in—and how they can be choreographed into artistic, emotive narratives. Although there is no specific narrative or precisely defined theme for Equinox, the eight, uniquely choreographed sets, the piece as a whole functions to both showcase the talents and vibrancy of the company dancers and visiting artists/choreographers, and explore our bodies’ autonomous, joyous movements.

Each performance features the vision of a different choreographer—Jacob Casey, Victoria Messino, Lea Fosbenner (EDT Artistic Director), Nicole Monville, Ebony Cunningham, Alyssa Bradley, and Katherine Mann (EDT Founder/Executive Director)—and each demonstrates the voice of each individual responsible. In keeping with the embodiment of Equinox—rebirth; elongation of light; rejuvenation; and duality—the prevalent movements, actual and symbolic, captured a sort of spirited litheness that consistently evoked the imagery of flora and fauna awakening from the winter dormancy. Along with this, each piece’s choreography, in its own, distinct way, both allowed for the dancers to act out their own duality and interact with their fellow dancers on stage in such a way that channeled symmetry and syncopation aligned with triumphant renewal.

Equinox was notable for cleverly blending the accompanying soundtrack with music samples ranging from hip-hop (Kanye West; Childish Gambino), to R&B/experimental soul/trip-hop (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experience), to synth pop/arthouse pop (Bonobo; Just Friends), to alt-rock/pop-rock (Foo Fighters, Wolf Parade) and more that never once seemed clunky or choppy. Perhaps most striking were the two performances “Trilogy,” that featured the exquisite performances of dancers Alyssa Bradley, Marcella Day and Olivia Mayak to a rapturous mashup of Etta James songs; and “Hold On to Me,” which was an astonishing piece that perfectly utilized the individual strengths and phenomenal group synergy of all the dancers on stage (Alessandra Comunale, Ebony Cunningham, Marcella Day, Alexa DeJeet, Allison Long, and Rachel O’Rorke). Ebony Cunningham also demonstrated her prowess as a choreographer in the piece entitled “My Dear Acquainted,” a vivacious and robust performance that announced the electric excitement of rebirth and self-discovery.  Similarly, Katherine Mann’s deft choreography on Equinox’s closing number, “No Exit,” was a demonstration in exultant, yet contemplative, dance.

The auguries of other worlds and other selves that only our bodies can channel through inchoate, unseen rhythms and movements were strong and delightful throughout Equinox. Pittsburgh should keep an eye out for the future moves of this company.

For more information on EDT, visit their site.

Categories: Archived Reviews

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