Exploring New Territory with Dance

 United StatesUnited States American Modern Ensemble, “Frantic Gnarly Still”: American Modern Ensemble, Mazzini Dance Collective, Roulette, 16.10.2013 (BH)

Marc Mellits: Tight Sweater (2005)
Jason Haney: Six Memos for the New Millennium (2013)
Christopher Chandler: the resonance after (2008)
Robert Paterson: The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind (2004)
Lembit Beecher: Frantic Gnarly Still (2007)
Pierre Jalbert: Visual Abstract (2002)

Robert Paterson, Artistic Director, Conductor and Percussion
Annmaria Mazzini, Choreographer-in-residence
Amelia Lukas, Flute
Benjamin Fingland, Clarinet
Robin Zeh, Violin
Arash Amini, Cello
Stephen Gosling, Piano
Matt Ward, Percussion

Emily D’Angelo
Audra Bailey
Yon Burke
Megan Cohl
Bridget Cronin
Rachel Holmes
Andy Jacobs
Samantha Silvers
Evelyn Wheeler

Costumes: Beth Hommel and Faye St. George
Lighting: Donalee Katz

The twenty-first century is alive and well and brimming with music, thank you—and movement. If this evening by the American Modern Ensemble perhaps didn’t break new ground in its flirtation with dance, the collaboration with Mazzini Dance Collective did show that both groups are eager to find new territory. And the packed house at Roulette confirmed that there is an avid audience for contemporary music fused with new choreography. (In comments during the show, the group’s director, Robert Paterson, affirmed AME’s admirable commitment to restore the use of live music with dance.)

I’ve heard Paterson’s The Thin Ice of Your Fragile Mind before, but with the addition of Annmaria Mazzini’s dance titled Company, the work’s somewhat ominous tone became even more so. Clad in white, spilling down from the stage, Mazzini’s dancers created a whorl of loss and ostracism. Similarly, in Pierre Jalbert’s Visual Abstract (2002), the Mazzini sextet danced to Tower, with black-clad bodies criss-crossing the floor, and in his comments at intermission (with Paterson and some of the other composers) he expressed delight in seeing his piece illuminated by choreography.

In between came Lembit Beecher’s Frantic Gnarly Still (2007) for violin and percussion, expertly played by Robin Zeh and Matt Ward, respectively. (The piece was one of AME’s 2012 composition competition winners.) As Ward navigated a small galaxy of unusual bells, drums and other instruments, Zeh wove a bristling tapestry in what to my ears was one of the night’s most interesting contributions.

The first half began with Marc Mellits’s Tight Sweater (2005), whose subtitles also might be title contenders, such as the last one, “Mechanically Separated Chicken Parts.” Scored for piano, cello and marimba, the piece is a moto perpetuo of rhythmic precocity. Jason Haney’s Six Memos for the New Millennium (2013) was inspired by Italo Calvino’s book of essays, and Haney uses the author’s titles, his eclectic music matching sections such as “Exactitude” and “Multiplicity.”

Christopher Chandler was also an AME competition winner (in 2010), and the ethereal, slowly shifting colors of the resonance after (2008) would also be worth augmenting with movement. Near the end came some strange, birdlike sounds from flutist Amelia Lukas, bringing the first half to a tranquil close.

Bruce Hodges

Leave a Comment