With a stentorian voice oozing gravitas, actress Clare Haden delivers familiar Lady Macbeth soliloquies that we know so well.
As Haden speaks she is shadowed and mirrored by identically clad dancer Liz Sexe, who then takes over in a mesmerizing solo dance set to music by composer Matan Rubenstein. Rubenstein’s music coupled with Skog’s choreography seem to be making a transition from high anxiety to psychotic break both audible and visible. At first Sexe seems to be carrying her bloodied hands like alien and deforming invasions. She is roiled—making the forces erupting from her core seem like volcanic energy that can propel her across the stage and then fell her into a cowering crouch.
For this writer, this work, “Her eyes are open. Ay, but their sense is shut”—third in an hour’s program of nine—was when Skog seemed to take the gloves off in her intriguing exploration of Shakespeare’s women. For those of us who never tire of how the Bard can turn a phrase so well, here is Skog shining yet a deeper light on his stories and characters, here so aptly helped by Sexe’s skill as a performer and giving it her all.
Sexe- a teacher and choreographer herself-- seems to be one of the most seasoned and professional in Skog’s troupe, whom the program notes reveal to include no small number of smart U of Wisconsin/Madison students who seem to be pursuing dance in tandem with interests as diverse as mathematics, political science and dance therapy. Their dance training also is diverse- from ballet to contemporary to modern—which Skog works to “meld into a fluid ensemble”. From the very opening prologue—“All The World’s A Stage”—one can see that they DO move as a tight ensemble and also how Skog unifies their uneven talents with gesture-rich dance moves depicting the mewling infant, to feeble dotage, to nothing and all in between.
Marlene Skog Dance Combines Ballet, Modern and Contemporary
Later in the performance, much as Lady Macbeth’s bloodied hands seemed to be an alien weight, we see Ophelia (danced by Shannon Quirk)— who has been captivating us as she ever so gracefully flutters on pointe in her dance of becoming undone‑ pause to quell one of her feet now pointing at an awkward angle.
Fleeting but attention getting, these unexpected gestures seem to be a Skog trademark of sorts—a choreographic spice that ratchets up our engagement yet another notch. Later still, when dancers Mary Patterson and Kimi Evelyn delight us with their lamentation “To Be Or?” , a spiraling of Hamlet’s soliloquy which they penned for this series, Skogs launches them into dance by at first just turning their hands up and down in sync with their spoken word meter.
In this audience member's view, it’s these succinct gestures peppering the at times sweeping choreography that so pleases in this work.
Spoiled Chicago dance enthusiasts who expect the super-athleticism of Joffrey, Hubbard, American Ballet Theater and the like may be thrown by a moment here or there when you see a leg shaking trying to hold a too difficult-for-them pose. That said, this is an ensemble that moves as an ensemble, seizing the full stage, making surprisingly high leaps and rapid arm sweeps as a fast-paced Vivaldi score requires. And, by this writer’s lights, both Skog’s choreography and the pitch perfect costume design by Amy Panganiban are certainly standouts on any dance stage.
If you are fond of both dance and all things Shakespeare, you too will likely find Marlene Skog Dance’s presentation of CONSIDER IT NOT SO DEEPLY well worth your time.
Choreography: Marlene Skog
Dancers: Kanyon Elton; Andrew Erickson; Kimi Evelyn; Joyce Gaffney; Amanda Graziano; Kristen Hammer; James Hibbard; Lauren John; Mary Patterson; Shannon Quirk; Elisabeth Roskopf; Kaleigh Schock; Liz Sexe; Abigail Stachnik; Alice Svetick
Lighting: Claude Heintz
Costumes: Amy Panganiban
Collaborating Musicians: Matan Rubinstein and Timothy Russell
For more information on Marlene Skog , visit the Marlene Skog web page at the University of Wisconsin.
Photos: Maureen Janson Heintz