Let’s call it reverie
UWM alums Steven Moses and Jaimi Patterson opened their second performance of Rooftop Dance Thursday evening with an impressive lineup of intense and imaginative works.
After the storms pushed out over Lake Michigan, lightning continued to flare over Milwaukee. Nice view from the sixth floor of UWM’s Kenilworth building — not bad, MKE, not bad.
Inside, Rooftop Dance matched the scenery’s electric quiet Thursday night, as UWM dance alums Steven Moses and Jaimi Patterson put on a show. Repeated performances are set for 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 28-29. (I’m curious about the difference between 8 p.m. sunlight versus 10 p.m. darkness—Thursday’s start was 9 p.m., precisely after sundown beyond the panoramic windows on the building’s east wall).
In Moses’ And Then We Try Again, the folksy yet slightly off-kilter music of alt J drives dancers Libby Faye Schmitz, Kao Zhong Xiong and Hilary Anderson across the space. As those three settle downstage right, Jaimi Patterson and José Luis inch into the dance from upstage left. They quickly become the heart-stopping stars of the piece, in movements that express both the torment and ease of lovers. As they intertwine downstage left, the music cuts out. Xiong begins to sing “You Are My Sunshine,” lyrically and sincerely. The sentiment turns on its head a moment later, as Xiong, Luis and Patterson take up unison karate-style jabs and kicks as Xiong shouts the song in angry staccato.
Javier Marchan Ramos dances his own Before The First to industrial soundscapes over piano on this program. Ramos contrasts fluid, conventional steps with herky-jerky, alien moves connected by subtle transitions. In such moments, the piece teeters on the edge of the mechanical, and the music promotes that impression. But Ramos never turns robotic. He plots, reaches, maps the floor in front of him with open palms. He remains entirely human.
Anderson and Schmitz dance Anderson’s Come Full Circle. The girls move somewhat aggressively to Eddie Vedder’s “Guaranteed,” music he wrote for the film Into The Wild. The music is instrumental and soothing — at first. Then we hear a distorted version, perhaps played backwards, before it repeats in original form. Though the music changes in tone, the dancing does not — it remains doggedly rough and full of effort.
I would say it fits the distorted track best, but that’s what makes the bookends of the piece so darn interesting. Anderson and Schmitz move rapidly and often grab at each other’s limbs. They’re never far apart, and often seem to be all bent elbows and knees. They utilize every level, from floor work to full standing extension, and rarely slow down. Even when they’re entirely intertwined, they never seem quite engaged with each other. Just stuck together.
Patterson set her Rebel Red on Brenna Marlin. Tubes of lipstick line Marlin’s path; she spends the first five minutes or so in place, tracing an unopened lipstick over her body. She also crouches down and franticly zags it in front of her, as if writing on an invisible wall. She wiggles her torso every so often. It’s not really enough.
Moses and Patterson swoop in, fly all over the space and create a deep sense of urgency in Gerald Casel’s Armistice, the energetic stand-out of the evening. Composer Tim Russell, playing live next to the dance floor, contributed big, irregular drum beats of crucial importance.
At first there’s a bit of disjointed, ragdoll motion, with the dancers separated. Then they transition into a series of complex lifts. They tangle into each other, shove the other away, tug back. Everyday motions creep in: the way you put your hand under your chin in boredom, check your watch, wipe your mouth. These moments bring flashes of quiet to an otherwise intense piece. Patterson and Moses are sharp and angular, yet sweet. They contemplate each other with a sense of trust and calm, even during frenzied movement.
Lighting plays a role in Mauriah Donegan Kraker’s High Plain, which Kraker dances with Luis. Soft yellow light envelops the stage, invoking a sunset (or indeed, a high plain). It opens with Luis bathing his arms and head in a wash basin—the first prop of the evening. It’s a nice moment. Kraker soon joins him; they take their time. They contemplate, reach, always on the edge of something. High Plains feels a lot like exaltation to me…lots of sweeping arm movements, hands held up high in prayer. A certain knowingness permeates this dance.
Concert Information: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 28-29, 6th Floor of UWM’s Kenilworth Square East building, at Prospect and Keniworth. Tickets: General $20 | Artist Student $15, at the Rooftop website and at the door.