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Aquarian Exposition: A Trip Back to the Original Woodstock

SHARP Dance Company (Philadelphia)

By Julie Mullins · May 30th, 2014 · Fringe
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Cut to 1969, the Summer of Love and Woodstock. Well, almost. This Philadelphia dance company offers a modern homage to Woodstock or — according to the program notes — what the people listening to the concert might have been doing in the fields during those three days that defined an era.

The ensemble’s 50-minute show delivers an enjoyable display of four skilled dancers’ talents set against a tableau of musical classics from the era: “Purple Haze,” “Evil Ways,” “White Rabbit” and so on.

Between dance pieces, solo vocalist Jenn Hallman takes the stage, channeling a serviceable Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane) and a somewhat gentler Janis Joplin for “Piece of My Heart,” the only occasion when live vocals and dance converge. For the most part, the juxtaposed styles of Classic Rock and polished, precise dance dovetail elegantly, but once in a while it feels like a disconnect, a combination too forced.

The quartet of dancers — three women, one man — dance most often in unison and sport stylish, period-appropriate costumes that still manage to show off their forms.

Think colorful paisley prints, textured bell-bottoms, a touch of fringe — and naturally, the women wear their hair long. Somewhat disappointingly, the costumes and a token Woodstock poster (hung far off to one side) provide the only visual elements that evoke the setting of our trip back in time. As befits the Summer of Love, there are suggestions of dropping acid and other drug use, coupled with some casual embraces being traded. The plain black scrim just doesn’t fit the mood.

Lighting is also kept simple, but is used to good effect suggesting sunset or perhaps campfire during Kate Rast’s sensual solo, “The Passion of Groovy” when she’s bathed in a warm glow as she spirals and undulates. But it’s still a family-friendly show.

Though pleasing to watch, as Fringe Festival performances go, this production definitely leans towards the less “fringy” end of the spectrum. No new ground broken here. Even choreographically, it’s quite classically modern in style: precise forms and lines, side lateral tilts and leg extensions. Toes are pointed or feet are flexed with clear intention. Good technique and training show in these young dancers. One misfortune, however, was that the 17 E. Court Street stage’s smallish dimensions seemed to stifle their movements a bit, particularly when most pieces employed all four dancers.

During a dynamic duet set to “I Put a Spell on You,” it was refreshing to see Sandra Davis and Kate Rast expand more fully in the space, lending their movements a greater sense of abandonment. In a welcome bit of stylistic variation, Rast also ventured into some African dance phrases during an instrumental drum-and-percussion interlude, backed up by some light accompaniment from the other cast members playing shakers and an agogo bell.

See this show if you enjoy watching dance — and especially if you dig the music. Aquarian Exposition offers a lively, if not totally groovy reinterpretation of it.


AQUARIAN EXPOSITION by SHARP dance company (Philadelphia) will be performed 7:30 p.m. May 30 and 9 p.m. May 31 at 17 E. Court St. 
 
 
 
 

 

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