Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, The Anata Project and Summation Dance shared a bill at the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, Colorado. Though both companies were born in New York, The Anata Project now hails from San Francisco, and Summation Dance resides here in Denver. The companies joined for the weekend of performances, demonstrating the depth of connections in the dance scene nationwide.
The Anata Project, with Claudia Anata Hubiak as Founder and Artistic Director, opened the show with a short film entitled, It Fades. Four dancers in neutral-toned leotards writhed and twisted their way across the screen. Close-up shots of ankles and hands juxtaposed with wider set shots, showing the group intertwining limbs.
The Anata Project next performed the compelling and captivating notjustmoreidlechatter, a work that first premiered in their home city of San Francisco. Lights came up to reveal four female dancers sitting tall, backs to the audience. The piece began with a long sequence in which dancers intermittently laid down on their backs, rose up to sit again, and eventually stood, all the while facing the back of the stage. From this slow beginning, the piece unfolded into a series of rolling solos and duets, all expertly illuminated by lighting designer Craig Bushman.
One duet traversed the space, dancers roiling over one another, trading swinging legs and intricate partnerwork between them. Meanwhile, the other duet shadowed, occasionally mirroring a moment of movement from the first duet, then falling into stillness, only to surprise and satisfy the audience again with another fleeting tableau of unison.
Anata’s choreography fit the dancers like a pair of well-worn jeans: flattering and feminine, and growing more comfortable by the day. Each dancer performed a solo of her own unique flavor, nodding towards a collaborative choreographic process.
The work ended with the dancers sitting tall as they were at the start, the lighting reflecting a theme shown at the beginning of the piece. Though we were reminded of the way they had began, the dancers’ formation and angles had shifted noticeably. There was no doubt that something had changed.
If The Anata Project was meant to soothe, Summation Dance was meant to awaken. Summation Dance performed Transmute Me, a work marked by dark intensity and fierce, angular movement. Five dancers, including choreographer Sumi Clements, forwent delicacy for strength with sharp movements and resounding footfalls. The dancers embodied power as they repeated phrases of movement. Each performer had her own motif, but all of Clements’ choreography included bold stances, windmill arms, and angular lines.
Several pieces of electronic music, a few repeated twice, filled the space with sound so loud and jarring it was at times downright painful to the ears—so much so that it had to be intentional. The movement, and more importantly the lack thereof, also seemed a purposeful challenge to the audience. At several points, dancers stood still, staring into the depths of their observers as silence stretched out around them. Elongated periods of quiet and stillness amplified the ambient noises in the space: the squeaking of someone shifting in a chair, the clinking of ice cubes in a glass, a muffled cough.
Towards the end of the work, one dancer stood front and center, staring into the audience as the other performers executed their personal movement motifs. Her lack of movement seemed just as important as the motion of the dancers around her; her compelling stare fought equally for our attention.
The evening solidified two things clearly: that the dance world no longer faces obstacles of geography, and that the results of this brings together extremes, more closely than we ever could have imagined.
Ali Weeks: Ali is a professional dancer, Pilates instructor, and freelance writer. She grew up in the Chicago area, studying dance and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, Ali spent four years in San Francisco pursuing her dance career, teaching Pilates, and exploring her passion for writing. She moved to Denver in February 2016, where she continues to dance build her writing career.