The Modern Connection

M2DT Artistic Director Lesley Snelson. Photo: Jeanne S. Mam-Luf

Muscle Memory Dance Theatre collaborates with national modern companies in Collateral: Trade Routes in Dance.

Dallas — It was rare to see so many modern dance companies on one stage at Friday night’s performance of Collateral: Trade Routes in Dance, presented by Muscle Memory Dance Theatre. Joining M2DT at LIFE in Deep Ellum was MamLuft&Co. from Cincinnati, Ohio; Perpetual Motion Dance from Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Spank Dance from Austin. The performance repeats tonight.

Viewers got the exceptional opportunity to see multiple modern dance styles from postmodern techniques such as contact improvisation, vocal interaction and unusual recorded accompaniment (at times atonal, electronic and with vocal effects) as well as more contemporary techniques like aerial dance.

Perpetual Motion Danceclaims to be the first company in Oklahoma to incorporate

Kim Kieffer-Williams from Perpetual Motion. Photo: Victor Des Roches

aerial dance into its repertoire. In Trip the Dark Fantastic (2011), Kim Kieffer-Williams bent her body into different shapes and lounge positions all the while twirling on a trapeze-type bar four feet off the ground. Her strength was incredible; one minute she was in an upside down split and the next she had the bar wrapped around her arms and appeared to be walking on air. Aerial dance literally takes postmodern expression to a new plane, opening up a whole new perspective on potential movement.

Ellen Bartel and Amy Myers from Spank Dance took us inside the relationship between two sisters, which spoke to those of us with sisters, in the weirdly witty I Always, You Never(2011). The dancers seamlessly blended horseplay like pushing, shoving, hitting (not little love taps either!) and dragging with their speaking parts i.e. “You’re always late” and “You never share.” Recorded music by Hugh Lobel aided in the childlike atmosphere but didn’t seem entirely necessary in bringing out the characters.

MamLuft&Co. showed off its endurance with Pieces (excerpts, 2012) which was broken into three parts: OverthROWSever and DisarRANGEOverthROW had an air of eerie anticipation and foreboding with music by Animal Collective, Murcof and A Silver Mt. Zion. The seven dancers moved purposely from one side of the stage to the other, gracefully colliding with one or more of the other dancers as they went. In Sever, the pulse of the music (Pole, Four Tet) quickened and the dancers’ movements became more aggressive as they spliced through the air with their arms and legs. DisarRANGE was controlled chaos. The dancers rolled, jumped and flung themselves at each other all the while maintaining their composure. The transitions in and out of partnering were smooth and in line with the concept of the piece set to music by Biosphere, Four Tet and Polmo Polpo. The dancers received a big round of applause when the battle came to an end.

MamLuft&Co. Photo: Jeanne S. Mam-Luft

The host of the evening, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre, showed off its softer side with the ethereal Echoes (2007), choreographed by Michelle Moeller of Perpetual Motion Dance, and its sweet and sassy side with When My Beloved Calls (2012), choreographed by M2DT’s Amy L. Sleigh. But M2DT’s most successful piece of the evening had to be (re)build (2012), choreographed by Lesley Snelson in collaboration with the performers. Using red and white bricks, Meghan Cardwell-Wilson, Alison Mackley and Megan Odom went about building and rebuilding their own structures. Even through the movement was quite literal, it was also well thought out and captivating. Their environment constrained the dancers to linear patterns in and out of the brick formations. The dancers periodically rearranged the bricks meticulously before using them as a way to move across the stage, hopping lightly from one to the next. The clanking of the bricks when moved was accompanied by M83 and Scuba, arranged by Snelson.

In the end two of the dancers laid on top of their incomplete stacks appearing exhausted by the rebuilding process while the third dancer stood over her incomplete stack appearing content and ready to move on, perhaps implying that while the rebuilding process is important, it’s better to move beyond one’s previous state inspired by past challenges.

This review was originally posted on


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