MOVEiUS Contemporary Ballet’s debut of Big River (And other Wayfaring Ballets) graces the DC Fringe Festival this year with graceful movements, noteworthy ballet technique, and one key illumination; that is, that stretch jeans, Johnny Cash, and toe shoes most certainly CAN be combined. And that the result will be, at least moderately, entertaining.
Opening night’s performance was well attended, with at least two thirds of GALA at the Tivoli’s house full of adoring fans and other Fringe-goers. The evening featured four pieces, with choreography from Diana Movius, Katya Vasilaky and Kimberly Parmer. The leading three pieces, entitled Renforcé, Learning to Run and The Sun is Not Sinking, choreographed by Shelley Siller, Movius, and Vasilaky respectively, each explored one or more figurative personal journey or relationship. Though admittedly, the rather vague themes were not made clear through the choreography.
There is more than one stunning moment among these first three pieces that truly engrosses. During Renforcé in particular, set to a mash-up of classical tunes and ambient dub step, performances by dancers Catherine Roth, Christine Sawyer, and Kathleen Weitz clearly demonstrated the rigor of the dancer’s training, taking the audience by storm.
… absolutely exquisite to watch.
Founded in 2010 by Director Diana Movius, MOVEiUS serves as the sole contemporary ballet in Montgomery County. Director Diana Movius claims to have started the troupe in reaction to “a local need for a company that allows classically trained dancers to create new, exciting work.” And that it does. All of the dancers in Big River and the other featured pieces are absolutely exquisite to watch.
Closing the evening was Parmer’s Big River, which, you guessed it, is inspired by Johnny Cash’s famous tune. In fact, all nine of the piece’s smaller vignettes are set to one of Cash’s country ballads, and are each intended to delve into a different stage of emotional development. The dancers, all dressed in jeans, point shoes, and a red handkerchief, engaged in traditional ballet formations on stage, but with the flare of country line dancing, smiling and flirting with the audience.
While I admire the attempt to combine two vastly different genres, Parmer’s choreography is rather traditional for what she was trying to accomplish, failing to evoke the same powerful emotions one might experience whilst listening to the famously wistful melodies. That said, there has to be something daunting about trying to upstage Johnny Cash.
All in all, MOVEiUS puts on a show that, production-wise, vastly exceeds Fringe’s notorious “bohemian” standards. That said, it was slightly lacking in the “experimental” department, at least for the Fringe.
Running Time: 60 minutes
Big River (and Other Wayfaring Ballets) will be performed at Gala Tivoli through July 27th. For more information or for tickets, please visit here.