A Dialogue On Stage: Elisa Monte Dance Company

May 26, 2010

When I’ve seen the Elisa Monte Dance Company in the past, I’ve always admired this small NYC-based contemporary group’s ability to visually depict the nuances of human nature by creating a patchwork of movement that weaves in and out, starts and stops, rises and falls, touches and releases—all set to ambient sounds that do much of the same.

In “Dialogue with Dying Languages,” Monte’s newest work in progress, which premiered at the company’s spring preview, the format is slightly different. “Dialogue” features that same patchwork choreography with precise yet athletic movement. But the piece is set to a soundtrack of languages considered to be on the verge of extinction, according to composer Kevin James.

James recorded speakers from a Pacific Northwest Native American tribe, as well as speakers from native cultures in Australia and Japan. A live percussionist and cellist frame the recorded dialogue. According to James, these musicians are meant to reflect the rhythm of the spoken inflection rather than keep time, so while the dancers and the sounds coexist in the same space, they work independently of one another.

In the piece, eight dancers constantly intertwine and separate, moving quickly but not rushing.  Their arms are outstretched as they move across the floor, just missing one another’s reach. Ultimately they fall, strewn across the ground like a graveyard of lost traditions, a relevant theme in this era of globalization and split-second international communication.

This preview was the first time the dancers and musicians had performed together. In a question and answer session following the performance, Monte said she was intrigued by the interaction onstage. “It became a conversation,” she said.

A young and physically powerful company, there’s a great amount of energy and potential within the group. Often, dancers connect to the music accompanying a piece. But in a dance like “Dialogue,” where the music cannot be used as a regular meter, the dancers seemed to connect more to the piece’s meaning. While still a work in progress, the company tapped into a strong emotional connection, and, as a result, so did the audience. While the Elisa Monte dancers have always beenc aptivating, this piece was particularly stirring and seemed to bring the company to another level based on the collaboration between the dancers and musicians.

To find out more visit elisamontedance.org. And take note: Elisa Monte Dance Company will be holding company auditions on July 2 at Steps NYC. Email [email protected] for more information.