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Dancing to make up for lost time

SHARP Dance Company presents The Other Side

In
4 minute read
Davis stands in front of Quiñones, his hands on the sides of her face, their heads leaning against each others in a dark room
Sandra Davis and Miguel Quiñones perform in 'The Other Side.' (Photo by Leave It To Me Photography.)

In her introductory remarks, artistic director and choreographer Diane Sharp-Nachsin reminded us that it had been almost two years since SHARP Dance Company had taken the stage. They made up for lost time with a packed program of seven dances, a video, and two photomontages—one including a celebration of dancer Kate Lombardi’s 10 years with the company. But we had come for the dancing, and the company did not disappoint.

The Other Side

In “Wings,” an excerpt from Sharp-Nachsin’s Seven Windows, Sandra Davis and Miguel Quiñones performed a heartfelt pas de deux. They began with their backs to each other and in turn sketched out a sequence of movements, stretching up on the balls of their feet and dropping low, their arms like wings following the line of an outstretched leg. The costumes, a simple blue sundress splashed with flowers for Davis and grey exercise pants and tee for Quiñones, grounded the piece in the everyday while the dancers elevated the relationship in a sequence of lifts. It was a lovely piece, but it cut off just as I had engaged with the story of this couple. That’s always a danger with an excerpt. I would have liked to see more.

Lombardi had a brief solo also choreographed by Sharp-Nachsin. The piece itself seemed slight, but gave Lombardi a well-deserved moment in the spotlight, which was enough in an evening so packed with dances.

Quiñones, who had appeared as a dancer in “Wings,” also shone as a choreographer. I Am Here, a world premiere, combined modern and hip-hop with a dance club vibe set to the electronic-hip-hop beat of the song “Cake” by Ivy Lab and the music of BADBADNOTGOOD. The music had an industrial feel to it, but it all came down to the insistent bass beat. In cropped, button-down shirts in blue, and black pants, the dancers might have been escaping the rat race as they paced out the square of the performance space, but a sly hitch of a shoulder, the wide swing of a leg, drew us into the fun. New dancer Wren Coleman was a standout here, wowing us with technique and a personality that glowed.

Reflecting on the past year

Sharp-Nachsin’s Blind Faith, Part 3, set to Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work,” was easily the most powerful piece of the evening. The dance began with an empty floor covered in a cloth with wide stripes of red and black and three equally spaced round holes. Three dancers—Juliet Bernstein, Davis, and Lombardi—entered and the lights dimmed. When they came up again, the cloth had become a giant skirt that engulfed the three women. They clung to each other, swaying, and lifted each other out of the morass of grief that dragged at them like the cloth that stretched but still bound them. As they moved around each other, the cloth draped and folded, until it had wrapped them close around the central figure with her arms upraised. In my notes I wrote, “Martha Graham’s Lamentation,” not that Sharp-Nachsin borrowed from that piece. Rather, she seemed to offer a response—instead of solitary grief, we saw a community of women sharing their grief and giving comfort.

Blind Faith has been the company’s signature piece for more than 10 years, but it could have been created yesterday, tapping into our own grief after almost two years of sadness and loss. The image of the women holding onto each other was profoundly moving after so many months of social distancing.

Sharp-Nachsin wisely inserted a video after the piece Vertigo created in collaboration with the musical group Time for Three. The film captured the dancers at home and around the city, reminding us that even with the theaters dark, dancers still danced.

Murmur, a company premiere choreographed by Jon Lehrer, closed the evening. If Blind Faith had not already knocked my socks off, it would have been my favorite. As a grand finale should, it used the whole company, in filmy tunics in browns shading to cream and darker pants and shirts. The dance began with three spots of light, each with an individual dancer. Soon the lights brightened, casting shadows of the dancers on the wall as if the shadows were part of the company, too. The piece had many interesting moments, but my favorites were the paired duets, and the wonderful ensemble pieces—the dancers in a row, their arms rising in a sunburst, or crossing the floor in tight formations. Coleman again amazed me. “Lighter than air,” I wrote in my notes. It’s as if gravity steps aside when they are dancing.

All in all, it was an interesting evening with some real highlights, though I would have preferred fewer, longer, excerpts. By the time we began to find what those pieces were telling us, they were already gone.

What, When, Where

The Other Side. $30 ($25 for students, seniors, and artists). Choreography by Diane Sharp-Nachsin, Miguel Quiñones, Joe Cotler, and Jon Lehrer. SHARP Dance Company. November 12-14, 2021, at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American Street, Philadelphia. (215) 880-2306 or sharpdance.org.

Neighborhood House requires proof of full Covid-19 vaccination for audience members, and masks must be worn inside the building.

Accessibility

Christ Church Neighborhood House is a wheelchair-accessible venue, but the cobbles on the surrounding streets can be difficult to navigate for those with limited mobility.

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