Gia Cacalano and her multimedia ensemble brought new work to the Wood Street Galleries this past weekend. The show was a continuation of a piece they presented last March called “The Frequency of Structure and Flow Part 2.”
The piece was created as a deliberately pared down version of the first. Or, what one of the dancers, Vincent Cacialano, described as “the skeleton.” Back in the spring, the ensemble collaborated with French artist, Miguel Chevalier, whose video installation covered the walls in bold and bright images.
This time, the performers were given a blank slate, as no visual artist was currently in residence. Cacalano explained that she wanted to let the space dictate the performance. The result was simple and quite stunning.
Five dancers performed, four from the regular group – Cacalano and her brother, Vincent, from the UK, Wendell Cooper from NYC, and Jil Stifel from Pittsburgh. Newcomer, Joanna Reed, also joined the ensemble for the first time.
Philadelphia musician, Michael McDermott, created the music, some recorded and some mixed live during the show. And Wendell Cooper created black and white video footage that was projected against the walls.
Because all of the movement was improvised, the show differed each night. However, the group did work within a structure of five or six sections to keep an overall shape and cohesiveness to the piece.
Like all of Cacalano’s work, the themes were loose, open to interpretation and focused largely on the movement connections between each dancer. The quality always has a meditative feel that is gracefully hypnotic. Although there were definite dynamic changes within the hour long show, the through-line felt like Zen stillness.
Perhaps that is because of each performers’ heightened awareness of each other that puts our smartphone culture to shame. Each dancer took their time exploring the space as if it had been the first time they stepped foot onto the gallery floor. The connection they had to one another was astonishing, considering their long distance working relationships.
The piece began with slow and purposeful walking that gradually expanded into small movement gestures and eventually larger phrases and powerful fast moving sections. Solos organically shifted into duets and group segments, each as interesting as the last.
A few moments stood out in particular. Cacalano and Stifel shared a duet of discovery that had a soothing sense of calm, and ended as they seemed to disappear while the sound and images faded.
Afterward, Cooper, Cacialano and Reed entered the space in near silence, simply standing for what felt like a few minutes. With incredible patience and a comfort level reserved for only the most seasoned performers, they allowed the audience to watch the movement of their breath and subtle shifting of weight and expression. The effect was completely engrossing.
That moment steadily built into a high energy group section with all five dancers weaving in and out of each other. The video images flashed bright while each performer managed to effortlessly stay composed despite the beautiful chaos.
The section ended with an exciting solo from Cooper who seemed to defy gravity with his light-footed, off-center style. He ended up lying center stage while Cacalano soloed around him. She eventually pulled him to standing, cradling Cooper in her arms and pulling him offstage in a completely gratifying ending.
The audience exhaled, relaxed into the same present state of mind as the performers, and waited silently for a bit before sharing their grateful applause.