A dialogue in dance

Philly Fringe 2019: Evalina Carbonell and Melissa Rector present Honey’

3 minute read
A tree of tangled limbs: Sarah Shaulis, Evalina Carbonell, and Courtney Conigatti in ‘Honey.’  (Photo by Stephanie Ramones.)
A tree of tangled limbs: Sarah Shaulis, Evalina Carbonell, and Courtney Conigatti in ‘Honey.’ (Photo by Stephanie Ramones.)

I am a fan of the one-hour performance times common at the Fringe. Sometimes they offer a glimpse of an alien world well beyond our comfort zone. Sometimes, as with Evalina Carbonell and Melissa Rector’s Honey, it allows us to focus on a work that is too complex to fully appreciate in a “mixed rep” triple bill, but too short to carry an evening during the regular season. And if it pushes us a little out of our comfort zone, that is okay too.

Local dance enthusiasts know Melissa Rector for her work with the Koresh Dance Company, and Evalina “Wally” Carbonell for her work with Kun-Yang/Lin Dance. For Honey, they joined forces, inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Honey Tree.” Honey is not so much a single dance as a passionate dialogue between the two choreographers. Carbonell centered the piece with “In the Honey tree/ we ate chunks of pure light,” and Rector had the final say with “In the heaven of appetite.” A tree of tangled limbs and upraised arms, fronted by Sophie Malin’s go-on-forever leg extensions, recurred throughout the dance, bringing us back to the central theme.

Sizzle, tension, power, sorrow

I was afraid I would not like Carbonell’s centerpiece. I am not averse to some good floor work, but the beginning felt like we were watching a yoga class. Once the dancers made it to their feet, however, it opened up with some really evocative duets and trios ably supported by the corps. Brian Cordova was a particular revelation as he opened up and then contracted around his core, and exposed his throat in a movement at once strong and vulnerable. His duet with Wangbo Zhu filled the space with sizzling tension as it shifted from attraction to competition, from the floor to a powerful table lift.

Rector’s finale, “In the heaven of appetite,” seemed to pulse with an almost primal celebration of womanhood. The corps had its chance to shine here, in dresses that would have been at home at a cocktail party. It was impossible not to be drawn in. But I am still haunted by Rector’s “Climb,” a solo danced by Shannon Bramham in a black, wide-legged overall. Bramham captured our hearts with her climb, as she reached to overcome some great sorrow. Even the lighting, generally maintained at a honey-yellow, shifted to a blue-white that felt like water, or rest at the end of a great struggle.

Intimate spirit

Kudos to lighting designer (and stage manager) Frankie Markokie. The lighting supported the dance without calling attention to itself, until gracefully entering the choreography of “Climb.” The music, thanks to a variety of artists from Lucky Dragons to Hilary Hahn and Hauschka, also played a supporting role with clarity and a comfortable volume. The space was intimate, with no separation between the audience and the dance. On a personal note, I was last here for the memorial service of fellow dance writer Naomi Orwin. I know she loved these dancers, and felt she must be there in spirit.

What, When, Where

Honey. Choreographed by Evalina Carbonell and Melissa Rector. Through September 15, 2019, at CHI Movement Arts Center, 1316 South 9th Street. (215) 413-1318 or

CHI Movement Art Center is wheelchair-accessible, but to protect the dance surface, the venue requests that audience members remove their shoes or wear protective covers supplied in the lobby.

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