DANCING ON THE EDGE: Che Malambo

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By Friday, Jul 1 Arts & Entertainment
H. Heron
Che Malambo in performance at Jacob's Pillow this week.

Becket — For those just joining this conversation, this column is just that, not a review but my reactions to dance and thoughts about different ways to consider looking at it. In my last piece I suggested an anthropologist view of dance as Che Malambo’s work this week at Jacob’s Pillow is based on indigenous cultural elements.

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I must say I rather ignored that proposal. My first thoughts were yummy, yummy, yummy, hot, hot, hot. Thoughts quickly gave way to a visceral sense of energy. Percussive sounds vibrated through the theater. Complex stimulating rhythms made on drums, by clapping hands and dynamic footwork were breathtaking. I thought of Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black — crazy feet — unique and unlike anything I have ever seen.

I was, however, reminded at times of Flamenco, Tap, Kathak form of Indian dance and Irish Step Dancing. At one point in the choreography I thought of West Side Story…the call and response and challenge of the Sharks and the Jets. During the performance a young man in front of me applauded with gusto, almost bouncing out of his seat while a man next to be gasped “oh my god” and members of the audience squealed with joy and appreciation.

I don’t know who enjoyed the performance more – the performers or the audience. It was sometime into the performance before we saw solo work. However, the strength of the group was the individuality of each dancer. Some short, some tall, some thin, a more robust body type yet they moved as one. The group work was extraordinary — each an echo of the other thus magnifying the intensity of sound and movement. The precision was impeccable, yet individual — not at all like a corps de ballet. The solo work was generously shared and vibrant. The choreographer, Gilles Brinas, has done a remarkable and skillful job creating magic. And the dancers in bringing to us beauty, skill, athleticism and passion…. their joy and humor are infectious.

Just when I thought nothing new was going to happen – it did.

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There were surprises throughout. It is firefly season in the Berkshires. Those of us who have seen them know the experience as unique, delightful and magical…. like this performance.

A Festival, especially one like Jacob’s Pillow is much more than a venue for seeing dance. It is a place for crossing borders and breaking down barriers of all sorts. Here students, companies, audiences, producers, arts professionals’ come together from around the world. I have talked about letting go of preconceptions while watching a performance. It is something we need to do in life when we meet “the other” in this ever globalized environment. As Pamela Tatge noted in her curtain speech, there are two companies here this week, bringing not only their dance but also their cultures to us.

I will see the company from Seoul, Korea — Bereishit — tonight and talk about it tomorrow.


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