There was one small signboard at the sidewalk of the Performance Garage. The door was closed with just dimmed lighting through windows. Not so much of announcements or advertisements on social media. What awaited inside the intimate playhouse, however, was an exciting, thrilling, and rare dance and live music show.
It was exciting because the dance pieces choreographed by Koulman revealed the possibilities and charms of each dancer. It was thrilling because those dancers with long limbs and dynamic techniques would jump so high and land so far that they could almost hit their head on the wood beam or fall from the stage (luckily no one did on the opening night, except one dancer snapped another dancer’s hand with his foot very gracefully.) And it was certainly a very rare opportunity for anyone who love dance and music, because, how often do we get to be so close to the performers and actually feel the heat and sweat, the air vibrating by every movement they make, and notice each tiny expression and moment?
Five pieces were showcased for the annual performance. Jazzy and psychedelic Weather Report, leading to Nicolai McKenzie’s solo dance, Icarus set to Tchaikovsky’s 18 Morceaux played live by the pianist, Benjamin Richard Hoffman. Principal cellist of Opera Philadelphia, Branson Yeast joined Hoffman for Balanchine-esque Haydn Concerto. After a short intermission Luna was danced to mystic lute music by Henry Purcell, Giovanni Kapsberger and Robert Visse. The show concluded with a splendid trio dance, Trumpets danced by Albert Gordon, Santiago Paniagua and Eyler Austin, the talented and arising dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet.
The small stage and performance spaces tend to limit focus of viewers to a single performer. With several talented dancers on the stage at once, the 90 minutes of the show quickly passed while we were busy trying to grasp every movement of the dancers.
Nicolai McKenzie was dynamic and poetic, as always, in his solo dance, Icarus. The classical ballet, Haydn Concerto was a delightful classical ballet piece with some similarity to Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. The most exquisite moment of the night was the duet by Albert Gordon and Lucia Erickson. They may be young but were absolutely magnetic. Right off the stage were the musicians, whose fingers and arms gracefully ran on the keys and the strings, and created the beautiful music that made the audiences sigh.
Koulman’s choreography was not complicated or physically demanding. It rather let the dancers experiment how they would conduct each movement and illustrate the dance of their own. This show is a hidden gem.