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Review: Modern Dance Festival at the Modern

Posted 3:53pm on Saturday, Jul. 12, 2014

Immersive performance has become a trend around the country in recent years as arts organizations try new ways of connecting with their audiences, but the folks at Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth were way ahead of the curve. In their dance installations at area art museums, and especially at the annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern, the CD/FW crew wants you not just to marvel at what dancers can do but also to believe that it’s indeed possible to make movement.

Another great example is the opening event of the 15th Modern Dance Festival, “Some Assembly Required,” which happened at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday in the Grand Lobby of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and repeats at 3 p.m. Sunday. This weekend’s events also feature dance films, and the festival continues through July 25.

At Some Assembly Required, described as a dance “happening,” the team of eight dancers, clad in flowing skirts and pants and with the color purple a dominant thread, takes cues from the live, original and improvisational percussion by music/sound artist Austin Patton. Behind it, in the part of the lobby closest to the Modern’s reflecting pond, Patton used a variety of everyday objects, including plastic buckets, hanging empty propane tanks and strands of metal brackets, and pots and pans. A xylophone-like instrument made of metal pipes created the overall sonic theme, an ethereal timbre. Although at times, banging on drums and buckets added a tribal feel.

CD/FW founder and artistic director Kerry Kreiman devised the concept and structure of the dance, in collaboration with the dancers, who had some work in pairs and groups that was lightly choreographed. But they mostly improvised to the whimsy of the music and the audience.

That’s what will make each performance of “Some Assembly” different. Audience members are encouraged to “share, like, re-Tweet or copy/paste in movement,” either in the dancers’ space or at their own spots around the edges of the lobby. Urged to “imitate a shape or gesture of one of the performers and hold for 15 seconds,” some in the audience — notably children — had fun taking part. When two little girls starting imitating joined positions of dancers, for instance, another dancer appeared at their side with her own sculptural poses.

Some of the best parts of the dance happened when two of the dancers were engaged in unison choreography and another was off to the side of the stage adding flapping hands or what resembled yoga and martial arts positions.

In the final minutes of the 45-minute work — during which it’s OK for audience members to sit, wander around and even photo and video the performance — there was a call for a two-minute jam.

The dancers were bold and fierce in their movement, and adults and children banged on instruments or struck their own poses. That’s one way to help folks fall in love with dance: show them that just about anyone can create it themselves. It doesn’t have to be professional level, just honest and fun.

Highlights for the rest of the festival include a film about the legendary dancemaker Pina Bausch, and for the final event, “A Choreographer’s Exchange,” featuring CD/DFW, Bill Evans Dance Co. and other artists. See www.cdfw.org for a schedule.

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