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Susan Weinrebe
Performance Reviews
Ruth Page Center for the Arts

Instruments of Movement

by Susan Weinrebe
September 23, 2005
Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60610

Instruments of Movement at Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago

Instruments of Movement

No Surrender No Retreat
Artistic Director: James Morrow

Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn
Chicago, Illinois 60610

Susan Weinrebe
September 23, 2005

"Gonna MOVE!" could be the mission statement for James Morrow's dance company, Instruments of Movement. Blending the genres of ballet, street, hip hop, break dance, tai chi, jazz, African, and an alphabet soup of dance forms, I stopped categorizing and simply relished the craft that fused them into the evening's presentation, No Surrender No Retreat.

Performed in the venerable Ruth Page Center for the Arts, the venue was the perfect setting for the three shorter works in Act 1 and the eleven compositions in Act 2. The audience sat close to the slightly raked black stage with its enrobing curtains. We were in such proximity to the dancers, that even nuances of facial expressions were easily seen.

Act 1
Art for Art's Sake
Choreography: James Gregg
Dancers: Raphaelle Ziemba, Brooke Franklin, Becca Lemme, Connie Fagan, Kirsty Mackellar, Carmel Louis, James Morrow, Paul Christiano, Ben Law
Music: !!!
Lighting Design: Jacob Snodgrass
Costumes: Raphaelle Ziemba, James Morrow

Isolating movements of head, shoulders, arms and torsos brought street to stage with insistently pounding rhythms. One dancer in fact, jack hammered his head into his hand as a physically emphatic connection to the crescendoed beat. Mock fighting (Think of the line: "Everybody was kung-fu fighting,") emphasized the inherently competitive nature of break dance, just a bite in the larger work, offering a smorgasbord of styles.
love drain of life less longing in silent dress
Choreography: James Morrow
Dancers: James Morrow, Raphaelle Ziemba, Brooke Franklin, Becca Lemme, Connie Fagan, Katy Kempen, Carmel Louis
Music: El P, Christopher Pericelli
Music Editing: James Morrow
Lighting Design: Jacob Snodgrass
Costumes: James Morrow, Raphaelle Ziemba

Beginning lyrically enough to showcase a pas de deux, the electronic music soon slurred into the static of an LP rubbed the wrong way. Six female dancers executed center stage solos and reacted to the disharmony as though electric shocks were pulsating through their bodies. Grouping in pods of two or three around prone figures, they ebbed and flowed like an approaching and receding tide.

Illustration III: Still I am not deforming my true nature but manifesting the sensuality which exists in me
Choreography: Raphaelle Ziemba
Dancers: Becca Lemme, Brooke Franklin, Connie Fagan, Kirsty Mackellar, Paul Christiano, Ben Law, Kyle Terry, James Morrow
Music: Tom Waits
Lighting Design: Jacob Snodgrass
Costumes: Raphaelle Ziemba, James Morrow

In silence and near darkness, two pairs of men at opposing corners to a line of four women observed them as they swayed, and undulated in graceful response to building melody. Classic fundamentals of dance were especially prevalent in this brave work. Daring catches and lifts, like puzzle pieces, were as crisp as the snap of a twig and demonstrated the trust between dancers and choreographer. Witty, as well, was the humor of men dumping female partners on the ground, then stepping on them, as they walked. Whiskey-throated and wasted, Tom Waits sang, "I'll always remember to forget about you," and the combination of sensuality and playfulness stayed with me long after the dancing had ended.
Act 2

Choreography: Raphaelle Ziemba, James Morrow
Video Editing: James Morrow
Lighting Design: Jacob Snodgrass
Spoken Text: Kahlil Gibran
Music: Peter Gere, K-OS, Leonard Cohen, Common, Osvaldo Golijov, Radiohead, The Pogues, Jeff Buckley, The Streets

Table of Contents:
I. Visions
II. Coming Together
III. Fables for Friends
IV. The Event
V. Farewell
VI. Rites of Passage
VII. The Premonition
VIII. Hey Brother Pour the Wine
IX. On Death
X. Sacrifice and Bliss
XI. Meet Me at the Gates

Inspired by Jesus Christ Superstar, Ziemba and Morrow imagined a multi-episodic journey in the spiritual awakening of followers of a mystical and messianic figure. Reminiscent of a 70's happening, appropriate to the Zeitgeist of that period, the narrative, guitar playing, recorded and live video feed, and even candle lighting, all served to put the audience into the mood and, indeed, into the piece itself, to receive this offering of dance theater. The choreographers told me that they wanted Lifted to appeal to all senses.

Chairs figured in sections of many of the vignettes, either separating the group or acting as a jungle gym. Through videography, large screen projections brought symbolic baptisms and soul-saving, at rear stage, into heroic focus, while spicing episodes with a cinema vérité flavor.

With few props, the performers of IOM nearly churned the stage to butter in a repertoire calling upon a multitude of styles and techniques. Some, like Kirsty Mackellar, who consistently nails her parts, or Brooke Franklin and Becca Lemme, create a rock solid ensemble. And, like Morrow and Ziemba, these particularly expressive and evocative dancers, who make everything look possible, also perform with Jan Bartoszek's troupe, Hedwig Dances.

Following a road less traveled, the pair of choreographers, Morrow and Ziemba, expressed their wish to depart from concert dance. Thus, their amalgam of movements, taken as needed from any and all sources without prejudgment.

Goals for the future include touring, paying the dancers well, keeping them healthy, and the universal wish of companies everywhere: financial stability. Though Instruments of Movement is young (just four years old), it is a power pack of energy, charging the Chicago dance scene.

Instruments of Movement
Photo courtesy of Kristie Kahns

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