The Zikr Dance Ensemble is composed of accomplished, balletically trained dancers. All distinguished themselves at various times during the performance I saw, but I could not have been more impressed by the impeccable lines of Gregory Gonzales. As Messiah in the piece Field of Fire his talents are literally at the forefront. Characterized by exceptional lifts and very clever choreography and costuming, this is a strong finisher (originally intended as occurring before the intermission, set and stage concerns prompted a re-ordering).
The piece I found the most powerful, entitled Parallel and Elevated, features two dancers whose movements are intimately related despite an invisible yet palpable barrier or separation. Both Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Christopher Ellis display intense physical strength and control in this precise yet passionate work. By the end, the two have changed places in relation to the simple set and exchanged something beautiful and growing.
Sanctuary itself is a complex piece performed by many, with body-conscious costumes and impactful set design. A line of hangings at the rear of the stage create a veil behind which dancers occasionally take still, silent refuge. I sense they are witnessing, but also withdrawing, from the events before them. The veil could be the lies we tell ourselves to shield ourselves from the truth and our culpability; it could be a tenuous wall between this life and death.
The collection of works that accompany the world premiere of Sanctuary celebrate and are inspired by different cultural and individual explorations of spirituality and reverence. What is the unifying element that all the cultures referred to share? One might well ask what makes us human. In the program, the “Universal Source” is mentioned. Whatever one’s understanding of this protean foundation, we are all a part of it and it is part of us all.
Many spiritual traditions honor the lotus flower and the purity, transcendence of earthly concerns, and potential renewal and rebirth it symbolizes. Lotus imagery was featured in the video projections utilized in the performance, and its potential reflection upon the work of the company prompted me to investigate this gorgeous flower further. I learned that it is one of very few plants that demonstrates the ability to regulate its temperature, its seeds may remain viable for many years (in one documented case, a seed over a thousand years old was germinated), and the plant itself can live for hundreds of years. While its roots are in the murk and muck of a pond or lake bottom, its luminous flowers reach for the sky and are spotless. Imagine the implications– and inspiration– for us.
Zikr Dance Ensemble will present Sanctuary again at the PACE Center in Parker on Friday & Saturday, June 27 & 28 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 303-805-6800, emailing PACEtickets@parkeronline.org or online ( http://pacecenteronline.ticketforce.com/).
Jane E. Werle: With artwork and writing published by Bombay Gin, Hot Whiskey Press, Wyrd Tree Press, Summer Stock, and her own imprint, Thirsty Lizard Books, Jane is a passionate proponent of creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of elusive and meaningful beauty. A poet, educator, and longtime nanny, she works and explores with kids, challenging young minds and safeguarding young hearts. Jane graduated with an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has come up with no compelling reason since to move away from the lively Denver area and its admirably self-made cultural opportunities. Contact Jane with editing needs, parenting problems, and extravagant travel writing proposals.