Photo by Isabelle Wattenberg
Eight figures in white are darting up and down like tadpoles on the stage as one young man, straight and removed from this syncopated sprouting, yells out, ‘Nothing but sex and death!
Dancer Laura Selle-Virtucio.
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio.
He’s talking to us: a range of under-thirty art patrons, friend-of-dancers (I’m almost in this category—at least, I’m a friend of a friend), and dance students. We’ve filled the Cowles Center to near capacity, and now we’re watching a dance of gametes, conducted by dancer-turned-orator Joseph Crook.
But by this time, Black Label Movement already has us on board with whatever they want to exhibit. We’ve been introduced to the confident ease with which they stretch across the stage, rearranging their bodies—and often those of their fellow members—in unorthodox patterns. The nine-year-old Twin Cities modern dance company (tagline: “We do our own stunts”) uses ten movers in each season, collecting backgrounds in areas as varying as competitive gymnastics and music video choreography. Slight differences to costume and movement connect the dancers as a continuation of—and slight variation on—each other. It’s an ensemble, yes, but one where each mover shows off an individual identity. The level of technique, meanwhile, is unanimous. They even flail with precision.
A mixture of well-received repertoire pieces and premieres made up the program, including a live retelling of a piece commissioned by TED Talk, Let’s Talk About Sex (hello, gamete dance). They foray into mystery, and sorrow, but midway through the piece A Fractured Narrative for a Sad Ending, the dancers appear in summer dress. Everyone seems so happy to be dancing, I believe I’d be happy too if I just picked up the craft. In the meantime, however, we have Black Label Movement to help us reach that state of mind.
Nothing got across this feeling more than watching Joseph Crook calmly describe a “pool of tranquility.” And despite that fact that he’s balancing on the heads of his fellow dancers while he talks, you believe he’s right there, and he’s managed to pull us in, too.