Cleveland’s Inlet Dance Theatre opens CPT’s ‘DanceWorks’ series with mostly Entertaining Program

Inlet Dance Theatre's Joshua Brown, Taran Brown, and Dominic Moore-Dunson. Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.
Inlet Dance Theatre’s Joshua Brown, Taran Brown, and Dominic Moore-Dunson. Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

Inlet Dance Theatre
Cleveland Public Theatre – Gordon Square Theatre
Cleveland, OH
April 10-12, 2014

By Steve Sucato

Cleveland-based Inlet Dance Theatre opened Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual DanceWorks series April 10 at Gordon Square Theatre with a program of five diverse works by company founder and artistic director Bill Wade including three premieres. In its 13th season, Inlet has carved out a niche among Northeast, Ohio dance troupes for its highly accessible dance works utilizing Wade’s movement language that mixes the classical modern dance technique of Erick Hawkins with the unique body sculpting style of Pilobolus.

The sold-out performance began with excerpts from Wade’s 2014 work Nature Displays.  The nature-themed work created in conjunction with an exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was funny, creative and utilized prop and costume theatrics a la like-minded dance troupe MOMIX’s dance work Botanica. The work featured everything from frolicking birds and bees to the migration of sex cells.  Set to a compilation of music including songs by Peter Gabriel and Vancouver’s Infinitus, Nature Displays began with a section entitled “Birds in a Field” in which five dancers lay on their backs, legs skyward while five others crouched atop them perched like birds on a branch, heads bobbing.  The perched dancers then switched positions outstretching their arms and legs to look like birds in flight. Wade’s simple, but clever choreography had an ease to it that was engaging.

Then dancer Josh Brown buzzed the stage as a manic bee in a laugh-out-loud solo after which the work turned its attention to the microscopic with a depiction of the attraction of sex cells. Inlet’s dancers rolled on and off the stage like tumbleweeds and then came together in group formations in vignettes that looked to be about meiosis and sexual reproduction.

The first of several delightful works on the program, Nature Displays was followed by Wade’s equally entertaining spiritual solo “Soon I Will Be Done” (1993) performed by dancer Dominic Moore-Dunson. Danced to gospel music by Frankie Knuckles, the modern dance solo about overcoming struggles was passionately performed by Moore-Dunson’s garnering him a standing ovation.

“Angels Unaware,” the first of three premieres in performed in succession was far less engaging. Themed around the often unknowing support we get from others in our lives, “Angels Unaware” depicted several characters in various states of emotional distress being comforted and encouraged by others. The well-intentioned work established early on that those who were being helped could then become those who helped others. Where the piece faltered was in the repetition of that one-note. Dancers hugged, cradled, lifted and uplifted those in distress in predictable choreography that, although nicely danced, became tiresome to watch.

Inlet Dance Theatre's Joshua Brown and Elizabeth Pollert. Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.
Inlet Dance Theatre’s Joshua Brown and Elizabeth Pollert. Photo by Lauren Stonestreet.

The best of the new works presented, “10” was a tribute to veteran dancers Brown and Elizabeth Pollert’s 10-years with Inlet.  The intensely physical duet set to a commissioned score by Sean Ellis Hussey played out like a greatest hits of the weight-sharing, daring lifts and Pilobolus-like movement found in many of Wade’s works.  The choreography had each of the dancers lifting, carrying, and balancing on one another in marvelously acrobatic choreography that highlighted both dancer’s strength and giving as partners.

The mostly entertaining program closed with “Fire,” the third movement of a yet-to-be-completed five movement work inspired by Laurie Beth Jones’ self-help book, The Four Elements of Success that likens the four elements to personality types.  Danced to another original score, this time from composer Jeremy Allen, a member of Cleveland-based experimental orchestra FiveOne, “Fire” featured a trio of dancers (1 male, 2 female) in familiar choreography that had dancer Dominic Moore acting as a fulcrum balancing dancers Nicole O’Malley and Michelle Sipes like weights on other side of him. Perhaps the “danciest” of the works on the program, Inlets dancers moved through pirouettes, body rolls and turns in attitude. In the end though, “Fire” was a disappointment.  Wade’s choreography for it lacked originality and the fire implied by its title. Its trio of dancers also seemed to struggle performing it.

Despite the program’s few sour notes, overall it proved entertaining and in keeping with what has made Inlet Dance Theatre a popular ticket in Cleveland on this and any other dance season.

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