Review: Diverse Dance Companies Share An Intimate Space In Newport

Jul 20, 2016

After a trip half-way around the world to Kazakhstan, Newport's Island Moving Company is home and holding it's annual Great Friends Dance Festival.

Companies from New York to Missouri are on the bill. RIPR's performing arts critic, Bill Gale, says it's worth seeing.

Each year IMC invites a number of dance troupes to appear at the old and singular Quaker Meeting House in Newport. The visiting companies than bring IMC back to their home towns, all around – well, after Kazakhstan - the world.

This year the primary company invited is the Owen/Cox Dance Group from Kansas City. They turn out to be a first-rate choice, an innovative company filled with energy and drive, fine dancing, and careful performing.

Their premier piece was the closer last weekend “Fuga Tanguera,.” It's a work derived from Argentine tango and contemporary jazz.  With Latino-implied music by Brad Cox, one of the company's founders, three men and three women take to the fully covered stage with easy drive. They seem to be entirely free even as they follow the choreography by Jennifer Owen. 

A quicksilver duet is done with crisp, clear feeling. The couple hold your attention completely. Then they travel quickly, fluidly back into the six-member cast.  The change seems inevitable.

The dance is filled with these magical moments, intricate and bold, at once. With its unforced  effort, it's decisive drive, and clear love of movement,“Fuga Tanguera” is worth the price of admission alone.

Owen/Cox offered another piece. “Canned Heat” had two women and one man in fluffy T-shirts and brown shorts remaining closely together. They covered the stage carefully, being a group more often than singular dancers. The movement was proper, quick and all of a piece. I kept wondering when “Canned Heat” would surprise us with heat or at least more originality, or perhaps, humor.It didn't though, continuing to be a well made dance, well done. But lacking, perhaps, in individuality.

Still, Owen/Cox is a company worth seeing. They'll be dancing each night this week at the Great Friends Festival.

IMC contributed several pieces. The first was choreographer Shane Farrell's “Queens Are Made of Distance and Greasepaint,” a title that escapes any reality, I imagine. But the women dancing gave their all going from classical ballet to increasingly street-like movement.

In the end “Queens etc.” gave me the feeling of a requiem. At the finale, the five women were all together but seemed, somehow, to be apart. The sense was a lack of happiness.

Several New York area companies were on the bill last week. The standout, for me, was “La Douceur de Carmen” by Ballet des Ameriques School and Company. Again it was all women, three this time. In billowing, colorful ankle length dresses, they seemed, once again, females expressing themselves in swirly Spanish-like movement. It was pure enjoyment.

This year's Great Friends Festival  continues through Saturday with IMC and Owen/Cox being on each night accompanied by a new set of New York area companies.  Its all definitely worth a trip to the City by the Sea.

Great Friend Dance Festival continues in Newport through Saturday. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.