Nosilla Dance Project performed its latest work, Unraveled, for several weekends as part of the Boulder Fringe Festival. On August 23rd, 2019, the performance took place in the basement of Pine Street Church. A cohesive performance in eight parts performed intimately in a space where the stage was ground level with the audience, the dancers were an arm’s length away from those seated in the front row. Those in the back pulled chairs atop a riser to peer over the audience’s heads. An industrial fan hummed in the corner as old friends saluted each other in the small crowd.
The stage lights rose on the first piece, Entering the Unknown, to reveal a rope arranged on the stage floor in curves like a cosine wave. Four dancers took the floor and approached the rope. They held the rope up, manipulating it to make shapes along with their bodies, giving structure to a structureless item. The rope became a character in its own way, its role shifting when the dancers rolled to their knees. Kneeling, they flicked the rope on either end, sending rippling waves through it, giving it an energy of its own. The two dancers on either end lifted the rope and snapped it down sharply on the ground, adding a sudden cracking dimension of sound. From here the dancers regathered the rope, wrapping it around themselves, using it to manifest new spatial concepts. A a ring allowed for the ideas of within and without. The rope was passed to one dancer, and she began to entangle herself in it while the corps carried on with a synchronous phrase. The only way to move the entangled dancer was to lift her like a rolled up carpet. They set her down, and one dancer took the end of the rope off stage, pulling on it while the entangled leaned in, visually hanging by a thread.
A cheeky piano riff filled the stuffy space with life as the second piece, 2-1=2, began. The notes were heavy, weighted. Another dancer emerged on the other end of the rope and a duality ensued. A partnership of dependence developed through weight sharing. On the floor, they mirrored each other, tracing hands and eye lines. A clap again incorporated a dimension of sound that enriched the performance. It is a playful exploration of movement shared. The performance space is so intimate that the spotlights are shining in part on the backs of the audience, casting shadows of their heads onto the stage floor. The mirroring scene from the floor is split open. The dancers no longer face each other, but both face the audience. One, in the upstage corner, stands tall and moves her arms in the borrowed pattern from before. The other, moving through high and low levels, does the same. This is a deconstruction of the partner dynamic, an altered perspective of it, like some dimension-splitting cross section of a movement relationship.
Four dancers resume the stage for the third piece, Chain Reaction. Much of the floorwork is unfortunately lost to the venue, as the audience seated on the ground blocks the visuals for all but the front row. The next piece, That Two May be One, showcased the wit that this company and choreographer Alli Jones are often remembered for. Two dancers with their wrists bound together in red ribbon catalyzes some unique movement relationships. As they progress through their phrases, they unravel their wrists one wrap at a time, the distance between them growing. They return to each other, re-ravelling the elastic around their waists, entangling even more than before. They circle each other, chasing round and round like the yin and yang fish, circling for eternity as the lights dim on them spinning. Like an interlude, the next piece, One by One, features spinning like whirling dervishes and bouncing, springing, popping like popcorn. Over as suddenly as it began, the dancers pop off the stage one at a time.
The next two pieces, Pendulum and Bitter End, develop the themes of the evening into conflict. At first, the music is bright and energetic. There’s rolling and running and lifting. It’s playful. Genuine smiles connect the two dancers on the stage. The characters take turns telling each other movement stories. They spin around each other, changing levels they finish this phrase with a spinning hug, unraveling just enough to bow their foreheads to touch, a bonding acknowledgement between dance partners. A twinkling soundtrack sparkles over the room, subtly spiraling into dissonance. The dancers collide into each other. They allow their lifts to drop. One lifts the other’s head by her ponytail and wraps the hair around her own neck. The girls retch together, made ill from the toxic proximity of their severe closeness. The twinkling brightness of the music turns sour. Their lofty leaps and playful weight shares are made to have weight, to drop, to depend on other bodies to a fault.
The final piece, Tethered Independence, is a reflection. The rope returns for a brief passage of prop work, and left a little to be wanted considering its creative potential. The most memorable phrase of this finale took form as they passed one dancer around. She moved through the arms of each of her partners, a cycle repeated a few times, until fatigue took over and she dropped to the floor. This is expressive scene summed the emotional exhaustion underlying the study of dependence explored throughout the evening. Taking up partners, the evening concluded with each pair twirling on forever into the dimming lights, speaking to the tendency of relationships to carry on through joy and tension.
Maggie Ramseur is a long time dancer and teacher in the southwest Denver area. Her background includes training in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop dance styles. As a member of the CU Buff Gold Dance Team for the 2017 season, she performed and competed on a national stage. In addition to a long history with competition dance, Maggie has also studied dance in pop culture and the history of modern dance under the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She strives to remain active as a student, a teacher, and an advocate for dance in the community.