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Dance Review

Dichotomies set in motion at the ICA

Douglas Gillespie, T.J. Spaur, and Jacquelyn Elder in “Dark Lark.”

Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang

Douglas Gillespie, T.J. Spaur, and Jacquelyn Elder in “Dark Lark.”

Choreographer Kate Weare makes lush, propulsive dances that shine a light on the underbelly of intimacy. Indeed, light is an operative word in her movement vocabulary: Even in the midst of threats — say, the loss of sanctuary or a partner’s rage — you see resilience: A hand cradles a head here, a butterfly lingers in an elbow-crook there. Ties that bind can stretch, not break.

On Friday night, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Weare’s superb dancers showed, in two works, the molten dichotomies that drive relationships — not just between people, but between nature and us. That the older offering, “Garden” (2011), trumped the new “Dark Lark” (2013) may be a reflection of those dichotomies itself.

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“Garden,” a compositionally sophisticated dance set to music ranging from Rennaissance pieces to a Mexican pop song, sets the yearning to return (to a place, a person) against the danger of that reconnection: Identities may merge, communities may splinter. Kurt Perschke’s startling set flanks the stage: On the right, a green-leafed tree dangles upside down from a root ball (signifying origins?); on the left is a large, flat tree stump (a resting place?).

Into this divided territory come four travelers: two men, two women. Weare dynamically contrasts couples moving in unison with watchers, slippery partnering with solos crackling from torqued limbs or silent, as still points. The narrative builds as she thickens and thins the stage space with bodies as games give way to survival tactics.

A striking detail of Weare’s method is her use of idiosyncracies as impulses: A deep back arc sparks a quirky head jut, a wide second-position plié (you swear the woman’s hip joints might pop) launches a fathomless lunge. It could be a cry in the desert, a warning: Do you really want to go back to the garden?

“Dark Lark,” a dance for five, startles with its idiosyncratic jolts, too. You are initially pulled in by the dancing, in particular Ryan VanCompernolle’s soul-wrenching suspensions, by Perschke’s set of giant boulders-cum-lanterns, and by the props: a long rattling pole that is both divining rod and weapon, and the glittering platform heels that Douglas Gillespie brandishes with elegance and savagery. Cellist Christopher Lancaster, on stage, brings a catch to your throat, as he and his eclectic score partner the dancers. But “Dark Lark” begins to repeat itself in tone and texture about a third of the way through, and you long for choreographic development — or else for the piece to end.

Weare’s dancers rock: Their breath becomes the movement, shaped by muscle, impulses, and bone. But recently Weare lost two longtime dancers and added three new ones. “Dark Lark” may be reverberating from the shift — revealing the reality of a central theme of Weare’s: Relationships inform not just meaning but the very structure of our lives.

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