Incongruous. When watching the Baltimore Dance Invitational at the Gordon Center, this is the first word that came to mind. The outfits, scenery, music and moves seem to often be at odds with each other, not like the professional dance troupes we see in ballet or on ‘Dance Moms.’ The dancer might be moving quickly when the music’s slow. Or the dancers may be wearing a variety of different shades and colors, without any rhyme or reason. Or the lighting may change from pink to blue just for the sake of changing. The dancers may be pushed and pulled and knocked over. They may slide along the floor. They may even remove clothing.
…the dancers did what spoke to them and were incredibly creative and innovative…
Since I’ve never seen a contemporary dance show before, my introduction was mysterious and strange. I wondered what the point was and what the dancers were trying to prove as I stared at them in utter confusion. But creativity is often like that. I’ve had similar experiences at modern art museums where I wondered just what I was seeing. My mind wants to logically make sense of what I’m viewing and contemporary dance just isn’t like that. This show proves that dance is a creative and innovative art form that uses the body as its canvas, and that there are infinite forms of contemporary dance. And if I stop thinking and trying to make sense of what I’m seeing, I could enjoy it.
The show, co-presented by The Collective and The Gordon Center, consists of 10 dances, each choreographed by a different group. The first number, ‘Worn,’ features dancers moving to melancholy music, sliding across the floor, slapping their hands, and running and falling back. In the second act, ‘I Am Not the Enemy,’ Aaron McGloin performs solo, creating some amazing lines and shapes with his body to the song ‘Danny Boy’ (note the incongruity – a contemporary dance set against a traditional Irish melody). ‘Divenire’ features three talented dancers who use strong blue and aqua lighting as a backdrop while ‘Page 115’ actually has a speaking part, relating to whatever book one of the dancers is reading.
In ‘Glass’, metallic surfaces are used to reflect the dancers’ moves, and the dancers often seem to be mirror images of each other. And in ‘The World is Not My Home,’ set to music by Merle Haggard, a ‘drunk’ dancer staggers on the stage and then is continuously pushed down by the other members of the group.
The Baltimore Dance Invitational was not what I was expecting and like nothing I’ve experienced before. There were no glitzy costumes, no pop tunes, and no high-energy jazz numbers. Rather, the dancers did what spoke to them and were incredibly creative and innovative – quite the opposite of the exacting moves of ballet.
From this experience, I learned contemporary dance could be anything – with or without music, with a strong narrative or just abstract, with simple movements or highly charged athleticism. You never know what you’re going to get. This new experience shows that if you take a chance, stretch your imagination, and throw out any preconceptions, your mind can handle some contemporary dance.
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
“Baltimore Dance Invitational” at Gordon Center was only on Sunday, February 26, 2017. For more information about Gordon Center, click here.