In the Now: Work and Play from the Hannah Kahn Dance Company

In the Now: Work and Play from the Hannah Kahn Dance Company
November 17, 2013 Jane E. Werle
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Excitement and anticipation rustled in the lobby before the Hannah Kahn Dance Company’s performance of The Get Go and Other Dances on Friday night at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. Inside the theater, many audience members visibly struggled to calm and quiet themselves as the lights dimmed.

The first of six dances, The Get Go presents immediate energy and collaborative joy. The thump of earth and the leap of air combine to indicate the stretch and pull of interaction. There is a wonderful quality of contagious energy in the group movement structure. A gesture initiated by one dancer becomes a catching urge, such that each dancer in turn fulfills the generated hope. There occurs a special moment of synchronicity, when the individual expressions of similar movements reach harmony. In her statement after this initial piece, Hannah Kahn let the audience know that there are no intended hidden meanings in her work; “All I mean is the movement (my emphasis).”

One of two collaborations with the Colorado Wind Ensemble playing live on stage, Catch a Glimpse gives an immediate sense of newness, green spring, and lightness of being. The ability of the dancers is difficult to overestimate. To land and to leap as though participating in the flow of a river over rocks is a difficult and laudable feat. Those familiar with dance will appreciate the conundrum of landing lightly while being a weighty human. Even eighty pounds is not a butterfly. And why would we want it to be? Weight keeps us in this world when mind and care fail.

Rift holds a darker, more strident and aggressive mood. The music builds and hints at a future crescendo. Leafy light communicates otherworldliness and a sense of searching among unknown quantities. A wall of understanding is hit, and the dancers struggle together to move beyond. This is one of the few times in the evening when the dancers openly acknowledge each other, eye-to-eye.There begins a cascading effect as one dancer moves and the others follow, as if dancing, rather than singing, a round. There is an emphasis on breath, audible breath, as the signifier of life in the body of the piece. Movement creates a being, of which the dancers’ breath is the animating force. The body is working; not work versus play, but function versus stagnancy or death.

The work in Double Helix is not a negotiation, but an understanding. As in parallel play, an agreement has been reached. Dance is a sharing of feeling; concern, frustration, and release. The audience shares in this too. I feel lightness as feet and fingers leave the ground. When a strong leg, purposeful arm, and proud chin lift to the sky, guided by pointed toe, I sigh. I catch my breath during a transcendent lift. My heart rises and falls.

Strange Humors, one of three premieres and another outing with the Colorado Wind Ensemble, has a curious intensity. The powerful pulse of the djembe drives the piece, and both sets up and breaks down opposing forces. Half of the dancers exhibit fluidity of movement, and joy thereof, in contrast to the other dancers’ clockwork rigidity. This difference gradually dissolves as the two groups trade roles and individual celebrations become apparent within the greater group work.

The Dionysian exuberance of Excerpts from Quintet No. 3 in E Flat Major is a joyful and telling bookend to Get Go, with thematic echoes reverberating across the thirty years between their origins (While Get Go is a premiere, Quintet hails from 1984). Happy faces adorn the cavorting bodies of the dancers, in an unusual display of playfulness. I especially enjoyed the line of revolving, supported jumps and lifts and the resulting sense of camaraderie.

And as I enjoyed, watched and considered, I realized: All of this is happening in real time. If you ever have trouble being present in the moment, go participate in something that human effort is making happen right now.


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.

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