Last Saturday, East met West choreographically on the stage in Skokie. Supported in part by the Audience Architects MetLife Stages for Dance Initiative, Indian Bharata Natyam dance company Natya Dance Theatre and modern staple Mordine & Co. Dance Theater shared an evening of dance at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. The two stylistically divergent companies have worked together before and the respect for the respective art forms was evident in the performance. A note from directors Hema Rajagopalan and Shirley Mordine in the front of the program talked about the collaboration. “The choreography is undertaken with the understanding that culture is written by, in and through the body, and that how we move is in many respects who we are.”
Two works from early collaborations started the show. Two Rivers (2007) presented two duets side by side: one gestural, precise and percussive – the other earthy, grounded and present with the two rivers theme representing “the image of two bodies of water moving separately”. The couples dancing in linear patterns intersected and passed each other like streams and seemed to be using the aesthetically different styles to say the same thing. Lovely. Sahridaya, from 2008, was a short, sweet duet to Philip Glass music with one dancer representing each company. The stark contrast of the dancers, choreography and styles made for a really interesting study in form. Ushasi Naha’s thin frame and pristine, placed approach against Mary Kate Sickel’s muscular, rounded, organic movement.
The title work – Pushed to the Edge – featured live musicians (barefoot) on stage. Wings out, the stage deconstructed as well as folding chairs a la Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 and video panels on the back scrim added a contemporary feel to the 15-dancer, all-female, cross-company piece. The groups with Natya in beige and Mordine in sage green (beautiful costumes for all pieces by the fabulous Jeff Hancock!) took turns center stage in a passive, progressive dance off joining together at the edge of choreographic similarities, but never fully crossing over to the other style. It was wonderful to see so many talented dancers together in such a cohesive and unique work.