Though it’s produced by Ballet Memphis, AbunDANCE isn’t your typical ballet. While there were toe shoes, there were no tutus, and instead of complicated classical music, the majority of pieces were set to modern or non-traditional tracks.
The most recent AbunDANCE show, “Where the Girls Are 2″ featured four unique dances about the female experience.
In the opening piece, Emily Coates and Lacina Coulibaly’s “Ou Que Nous Soyens/Wherever We Are”, the male and female dancers were athletic equals. The tiny, muscular female dancers lifted their male counterparts, and the entire cast took the same strong steps together. I loved the way the choreographers used the silence between the bluesy songs to highlight the dancers’ rhythmic unison steps.
My favorite of the four pieces was easily Damien Patterson’s “Four Women”, which was based on the women in his family. It was set to a series of Nina Simone songs, and the characters are very clearly defined. The performance was at points funny, sexy, strong and tinged with pain.
The second half of the two-hour show was consistently entertaining, but the first half was a little stronger than the second half.
The second half opened with Julia Adams’ “The Awakening”, an ennui-tinted piece based on Kate Chopin’s novel of the same name. It was a little more somber than the other dances and the show’s best example of the dancers’ classical ballet prowess.
The fourth and final piece, Jane Comfort’s “I Will Follow Him” was a very literal interpretation of the history of modern women (and women in music), starting with a housewife in the 1950’s and moving through Motown, women’s liberation, early ’90’s girl power and ending with a working mom going from the boardroom to her house to the club. While it was less technically sophisticated than the other dances, it was the clear crowd favorite.
On the whole, AbunDANCE is really the perfect format for introducing people to dance. The shorter pieces of varying styles with space between allows people to digest what they’ve seen without getting overwhelmed, and the non-traditional music keeps the show lively.