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For its first dance performance following a driving version of The Rite of Spring by the French Compagnie Heddy Maalem, Carolina Performing Arts presented the dream-like Shaker, by the Israeli troupe Inbal Pinto Dance Company in UNC-CH’s Memorial Hall. The cool fluidity of Shaker was a delicious contrast to the heated pulse of The Rite, and an excellent steppingstone to CPA’s upcoming presentation of Pilobolus (Nov. 21, sold out), with whom Inbal Pinto and her co-choreographer Avshalom Pollack collaborated to great effect in 2007.
Dance-goers who saw the premiere of that 2007 collaboration, Rushes, at the American Dance Festival last year, will find similarities with Shaker in the curious music mix; in the use of character-enhancing costumes, and in the use of props. Where Rushes used chairs, Shaker uses little moveable houses that serve as shelter, support and even as figures in the dances. The angular rigidity of these built elements enhances our appreciation of the dancers’ phenomenal suppleness, and the shifting lighting reinforces the turn and flow of the choreography.
The opening sequence involves a man in a striped suit cranking a wheel, while a queenly woman spirals a golden ribbon through the air. Many more variations on rotation/spiraling/ wrapping/rolling and other round, returning actions ensue. The stage floor is thick with drifts of “snow,” in the form of Styrofoam pellets, and as the dancers move, it swirls and rises, adding float to flow in the lexicon of motion. Shaker was inspired by snow-globes, and it does indeed capture the magical charm of those tiny enclosed worlds. Because the dancers are working on an unstable, shifting surface, their movements cannot be crisp or regimented — there is an element of uncertainty, resulting in a breathtaking freshness in the dancing that equals the vivid symbolism of its choreography, all the way through to the final wrapping and rolling.
One of the great pleasures of contemporary dance by talents like Inbal Pinto lies in the artists’ surprising musical choices. During Shaker, we heard Chopin up against Steve Reich; Henry Purcell next to Japanese pop, and Swedish traditional music balanced with Arvo Pärt. As clearly as the movements themselves, this way of combining music from different cultures and times reminds us that the world is yet full of unexpected and unexplored relationships. Some, like Shaker, are very beautiful.