After viewing Rota, an avant-garde dance concert, it’s clear that Deborah Colker is as much an imaginative inventor as she is a choreographer. Previously, she studied psychology, played volleyball, and performed as a professional pianist before focusing her creative energy on dance. Colker’s diverse background is an explanation for Rota being such a varied performance.
Split into two acts, Rota includes everything from ballet to gestural movement, balance, and dangerous risk. No matter what your taste in dance or music, there’s something for everyone at this magnificent performance.
The stage design in Act One, a German dress pattern covering both the backdrop and the floor, sets the pace for an extraordinary performance. Throughout this act, there are numerous changes in movement, costumes, and lighting; it is vibrant, upbeat and flowing.
All the dancers have impeccable ballet technique, and as the choreography progresses to include comedic gestural movement, the versatility of this company is demonstrated. Lighting and movement changes blend perfectly to create beautiful still images that punctuate the space. The dancers are strong and precise, and their moments are sudden and effective.
Equally effective is the variety of music used for the first section, including an eclectic array of pieces from Mozart and Schubert to Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers. By intermission, the audience is stimulated and curious to see what will happen next.
In Act Two, Rota moves in a new direction. The stage is dark and the atmosphere is calm, the antithesis of the bright and upbeat first act. Split into two parts, Gravity and Wheel, act two is where caution is thrown to the wind.
During Gravity, a man walks across stage on the shoulders of his fellow dancers (reminiscent of Anna Sokolow’s Dreams) while a woman balances on three-quarter point on one bent leg for at least five minutes. This section is hypnotic, and even partners exploring contact work move in slow motion. The feeling was like being transported from a European ballet concert to a Cunningham performance.
The unexpected turn next was a scene straight out of Cirque du Soleil. ‘Wheel’ refers to the twenty-two foot one and a half ton golden spectacle that the dancers next started to play on. The dancers spin the wheel using the motion, gravity and position of their bodies. If nothing else, this section is awe-inspiring.
Although the beginning is similar to a Juri Kylian ballet and the Wheel section veers astray from what some consider dance, the Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker was enjoyable. All seventeen dancers (whose biographies were unfortunately absent from the program) worked together in a cohesive manner, the mark of a good company that is fortunate enough to have both resources and time to explore. It’s refreshing to see an inspired, diverse performance, and it’s a step in the right direction to see artists are still pushing boundaries in a period where innovation in dance seems to be stagnating.