Pivot toward the future
Like a dance, a dance company morphs and evolves over time—changing shape and form, and entering new phases of its life span. Saturday’s performance of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company marks such a change: Now in its 24th season, the company has recently said goodbye to two longtime members.
Claire Jacob-Zysman and Melissa George became well known and loved by Capital Region dance fans over the last decade; George joined Sinopoli’s troupe in 2004, Jacob-Zysman a year later. Both have retired, and the company has welcomed two new members: Louisa Barta is a recent graduate of New York University‘s Tisch School of the Arts who has performed and studied with choreographers Kyle Abraham, David Dorfman and Sean Curran. Maggie Clambrone studied dance at the University at Buffalo and performed with Buffalo’s Zodiaque Dance Company for three years.
On Saturday, the new incarnation of the troupe shows three repertory works and premieres “House of Fables,” with a commissioned score by tabla musician Devesh Chandra, who will perform live for the piece. Chandra began studying tabla — small, paired drums — in the classical style of northern India at age 3, accompanying his mother, sitarist Veena Chandra. The two direct the Dance and Music School of India in Latham.
“For this piece, it was important to me that Devesh infuse that classical style with other rhythms and dynamics,” Sinopoli said. “He was so open to where he could stay within the basics of what this music is about, but also expand on it, so we were taking this experiment further than just putting a modern dance company next to someone who plays classical Indian music.”
Chandra performs at center stage, with the space around him divided into four quadrants, within which solos and ensemble sections unfold. A community or extended family starts to take shape, with dancer Sara Senecal at the center of it.
“I began to see this story emanating from it, of a young woman coming of age, making choices about which parts of her tradition to keep and which areas allow for more exploration,” Sinopoli said.
The other three works on the program are repertory pieces that each represent collaborations with other artists. In “Speaking Duchamp,” a site-specific work originally choreographed for the Sage Colleges‘ Opalka Gallery in 2013, the dancers interact with Michael Oatman‘s “D’entre les Morts,” a video work inspired by Duchamp’s painting “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Taking the ascension theme into the third dimension, they dance on and through a lightweight, rolling staircase. The piece is set to a soundscape by composer Todd Bartel that integrates recordings of Duchamp speaking about art.
The troupe also reprises “Texture of the Whole,” a 2014 piece Sinopoli developed with physicist and University at Albany professor Keith Earle. She and her dancers created movement patterns based on Earle’s explanations of physics concepts, such as quantum beats, echo fragmentation, vortex shedding and the butterfly effect.
In another pairing, the mystical underwater mood of “Sea Ghosts,” from 2012 (set to William Harper’s electro-acoustic work “The Gallowing Sea”) is enhanced by its backdrop: an abstract painting from Calvin Grimm‘s series “Deep Ocean/Deep Space.”
The sea is also a presence in the new work “Nearly Uncharted,” featuring six young dancers, ages 13 to 18 (Jennaleigh Buffo, Mackenzie Anne Costigan, Michal Drucker, Alexa DeRuscio, Annabella Kennedy and Blair Vogel) who come from five dance studios in the Capital Region. With music by Tigran Tahmizyan, performed by the Kronos Quartet, the work takes inspiration from the underwater art of Jason Taylor, who creates artificial “coral reefs” from sculptures of human bodies, houses and other objects.
“I tried to create an otherworldly sense of movement,” Sinopoli said, “to have them feel, as they progress, that they become one unity — a starfish or an amoeba.” Or a dance company.