Dance company dives into group dynamics with compelling ‘Hiveland’
Luminarium Dance Company’s new “Hiveland,” which had its world premiere Friday night at Cambridge’s Multicultural Arts Center, began as a five-minute commission for TEDxCambridge in 2016. Over the past two years, the company has taken a deep dive into the concepts of the work — the power of community, order versus chaos, group dynamics versus individuality — and the new hourlong piece is a compelling exploration. It is unpredictable, provocative, and gratifyingly visceral. It is also vividly performed by seven dancers who bring substantive technical facility and impressive theatrical commitment to the work: Jess Chang, Devon Colton, Melenie Diarbekirian, Amy Mastrangelo, Katie McGrail, Alison McHorney, and Jennifer Roberts.
Co-choreographed by the company’s artistic directors, Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman, “Hiveland” unfolds to an evocative original score by Christos Zevos. Mostly electronic, the atmospheric score sets the tone of the movement, which ranges from playful to ominous. The work opens with the dancers in an upstage cluster, streaks of light casting striking patterns on their bodies as they break into lines, circles, and swarms. The structural idea of a “hive” is effectively reflected in a large silver hexagon on the floor, like a single large cell to which the dancers seem inexorably drawn. The hive mentality is suggested by massed group movement. Strength in numbers seems to counter a fear of the unknown. There is a sense of constantly shifting power and control.
Within the ensemble, alliances form and dissolve. Groups break ranks and reform in dances charged with rigorous kicks and jumps, lunges and dive rolls. Solos and duets are slower, more reflective, searching. One duet unfurls with fluid exchanges of weight and off-center counterbalances. A repeated gesture mimes drawing a taut cord sideways out of the body to move a head, an arm.
When one dancer appears to get stuck on the hexagon, the group slowly approaches with menacing crawls, tapping the floor and snapping fingers. They lift her out of the silver shape, but launch her away, as if she is now tainted. But eventually, the hexagon is upturned, and one by one, the dancers crawl through a midsection fold, emerging wearing a red leg band to accent their black costumes, as if now they are forever changed, too.
Even at only an hour, “Hiveland” feels a little long, especially in more dramatic, mime-oriented sections that can belabor the point. But there are some wonderful moments, like a terrific push/pull duet filled with lifts and carries in eye-catching sculptural shapes. Spins and balances ripple into fluid tumbles to the floor. A caress turns into a shove, an embrace dissolves into a collapse. One dancer manipulates the other, action and reaction. A mesmerizing line dance shifts dancers forward and back, up and down in brisk squat turns around one another. I would love to see this one develop and unspool a little longer.
Gradually, dancers begin bringing tiny red hexagons out of their pockets and dotting the floor with them, as if attempting to assemble the outline of a hive-like structure. But it never quite gels, turning instead to a kind of pathway that leads to a giant red hexagonal frame in the back curtain, looming like a gaping dark portal. And as three of the dancers disappear through its center, the other four react in horror, manically destroying the pathway as the lights dim.
Presented by Luminarium Dance Company at Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, Friday (repeats Sept. 28-29). Tickets $12-$32. 617-477-4494, www.luminariumdance.org