By ANNE HERMAN
You have to give Thodos Dance Chicago props for staying together – and even expanding – for 20 years. Many other small companies would have fallen by the wayside from too much competition, too little money, and not enough creative energy to keep them fresh.
The Chicago-based company has been traveling Alaska for the past month, hitting towns from Ketchikan to Kodiak. Their 90-minute show Thursday night at the Discovery Theatre was a delicious surprise for Anchorage dance goers.
The program’s dances were clean and sharp-looking, with no extravagance in movements or imagery. What the company had to say with its works was straight-forward and bare-faced.
While several of the pieces were happy ones – lots of smiles and easy footwork, perky hips and twinkling eyes – the strongest dances were more serious and elemental. Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock Kaufman’s “Exurgence” was the concert’s stunning finale. And Kellie Hodges’ “Hopelandic” and Brian Hare’s “Temporary Proof” were equally as intense.
Kaufman dominated a spot light, her body punching and grasping at the confining space in “Exurgence.” Hands covered her face like a mask she tore off and put back on. Shadowed dancers followed her lead with diminished movements until they too stepped into the light. The dancers ran at and over each other, Zoe Keating’s music a relentless beat of drum and sawing of violins that drove them on. The piece ended as it started, with Kaufman in the solo spot writhing, shaking and, finally, at peace.
In “Hopelandic,” with music by Sigur Ros, three women emerged from the side curtains, pulling themselves free of some unseen force. Gestures of tugging at something and punching fists gave the dance a primitive quality. Was it birth, escape, or dominance that pushed them? These were strong females who showed their power with sharp strokes of legs and bodies through the space.
“Temporary Proof” echoed the opening of “Exurgence” as a single woman stood in a pool of light, moving like a living sculpture, with claws. This antsy, aggressive ensemble work, set to several pieces by Imogene Heap, shifted tone with a duet that seemed, yet was not quite, softer. A lone man in the shadows mirrored the woman’s movements as she rolled and was tossed, stretched out and curled into her partner.
When the group was not being intense, they were having a blast cavorting around the stage in light-hearted works. Famed choreographer Bob Fosse’s “Fosse Trilogy” opened the evening with three stylish dances that were filled with 1960s pep and sex appeal.
Company founder and Artistic Director Melissa Thodos’ “Cascade” was a barefoot ballet, as graceful and fluid as Ravel’s music, “Jeux d’eau.” Kaufman was sublime in Wade Schaaf’s “Dancer, Net Solo One,” set to Bach’s wonderful “Prelude” from “Cello Suite #1 in G. Major.” Dressed in a dusky lilac gown that encased her feet, she used her exceptionally expressive back and arms to draw an image of a woman at once regal and vulnerable, warm and in control of herself.
Thodos Dance Chicago was a surprise visitor to Anchorage. The company’s concert Thursday night was an open invitation for them to come back here with more of what they do best – dance.