Moving between the mystical and mirthful
By Diane Grant, Special to the Globe
Right: Kelley Donovan, Deborah Macedo and Jane Bulger perform "The Quickening."
CAMBRIDGE - In the title of their weekend dance concert, "Seeds and Secrets," Jane Bulger and Kelley Donovan suggest a rather serious evening of dark epiphanies, confidences and journeys begun. The evening did offer some of that, but also some lighthearted fare and evidence of their audience-friendly intentions in the form of free chocolate.
Donovan's "Winding Up, Winding Down" was an enjoyable upbeat duet for Michelle Roja and Donny Cheung Kang Sang, who explored the creation and the cessation of momentum by pushing themselves and each other around a bit as if playing children's games (even smacking each other's backsides). They also used body percussion (slapping hands against arms or legs) and floor stomping to emphasize the force they were exerting. A small gem of a movement study, it was playful and entertaining.
They mystical aspect implied in the choreographers' title "Seeds and Secrets" was brought out somewhat in Bulger's "Divining," a dance about a particular spiritual journey, aided by a figure seated at a fortuneteller's table. The dancers consulted with her and passed symbolic staffs - long branches covered with metallic material and bells among them.
If "Divining" represented the "Seeds" of the titles then "The Invisible Spoon" represented the "Secrets." This quartet was based on recognizable gestures of secrecy, including a finger to the lips and hissed "Shh!"" and the "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" poses with hands covering eyes, ears and mouth. Donny Cheung Kang Sang's extensive martial arts training showed in his deep, poised-for-action lunges. Some of the partnering was a little wobbly, though, lacking the full transfer of weight necessary to make contact improvisation-based dance effective.
In her solo, "Strange Attractor," it was clear that Donovan knows how to use weight. She is a purposeful mover with a strong stage presence. In this dance, set to a score by Michael Oster (whose music she used for "Spoon," too), she wound herself up and down with windmill arms, forceful long strides and crouched turns.
Bulger also offered a solo, this one with a taste test. A dance exploring devotion to chocolate, "Just a Taste" was ably introduced and passionately accompanied by vocalist Louise Cloutier, who also gave chocolates to the audience. Bulger, in a Hershey's-colored dress, showed anxiety about the substance going directly to her hips, which she slapped for emphasis. She also showed a jazzy sway of contentment when reveling in the stuff.
The evening's final piece, Bulger's "The Quickening," featured apples that were manipulated by four women in '60s style summer dresses while a moody Keith Jarrett piece of music played. Again Bulger's movement was abstract and gesteral-based, moving in and out of literal images. Arms floated away then returned to faces and to cover the women's abdomens protectively. The dancers ran, darted, played a crazed hopscotch with the applies cradled in aprons made from their skirts. They tossed and caught, and finally ate the apples.
While the three archetypes of women- virgin, mother and crone - that inspired the piece weren't clearly represented or differentiated, the dance was intriguing and well performed.
COMING SOON: a review of a 1994 show