Mesmerizing moves

Island Moving Co.'s annual 'Friends' fest
By JOHNETTE RODRIGUEZ  |  July 23, 2014

MANNERED AND MODERN Glen Lewis and Lauren Difede in 'Breathing Space.' [Photo by Thomas Palmer]

Island Moving Co., Newport’s contemporary ballet company, has always been adventurous. For many years, the company performed at outdoor venues, at the mercy of the weather; Open for Dancing — site-specific pieces — were also performed outside; a Nutcracker was set at Rosecliff; and a Dracula at Belcourt Castle.

And for the last five years, IMC has organized a Great Friends Dance Festival, its title referring both to the venue, Great Friends Meeting House, and the “great friends” IMC makes by inviting a half-dozen dance companies from around the country to participate in the two-week festival. It continues through July 26 at 7:30 pm (

Last weekend’s programs featured IMC, with Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre (from Florida, near Daytona), Matthew Westerby Company (Litchfield, CT), and Lydia Johnson Dance (NYC). This weekend’s programs will showcase IMC and Surfscape again, along with New York’s Marta Renzi and the Project Co., and Rhode-Island-based Colleen Cavanaugh’s Part of the Oath and Ali Kenner Brodsky & Co.

In addition to a one-week period to create a large collaborative piece — this year’s will be by Rhode Island choreographer Mark Harootian — these Great Friend dancers engage in a one-day choreographic project, to pull together a three-minute “etude” that opens the evening’s performances.

Last Friday, IMC dancer/choreographer Shane Farrell made a short piece that was reminiscent of twirling music box ballerinas, with displays of affection between the two, as one stroked a forearm or the other supported her friend, with a hand at the back of her neck. Short but very tender.

Next, Surfscape dancers performed a captivating pas de deux, Trouver Nos Lignes (Find Our Lines), to the music of Erik Satie, with choreography by co-director Rachael Leonard. Amber Johnson and Andile Ndlovu moved through a series of complex and incredibly demanding lifts, her long legs sometimes over his shoulders or around his neck but just as often held rigid as he tipped or turned her before her legs angled into the next configuration.

Surfscape’s other piece in the first half (also by Leonard) was even more mesmerizing: Marmol, referring to a location in northern Afghanistan and set to the music of Mexican electronica musician Murcof. Four dancers face off, step toward one another in pairs, their faces grim, their fists clenched. As they break out of this quartet mode, their arm gestures and hip swivels take on some hip-hop style, with belligerence and braggadocio. One-handed cartwheels climax with the dancers’ free hands momentarily grasping the other dancers’ hands inside the circle of four.

Sandwiched among these serious pieces were two lighter ones by IMC: two duets from artistic director Miki Ohlsen’s Continua Metamorfosi, with lots of airy lifts and butterfly-like hands; and a very fun dance, Levitation, set to Lee Dorsey’s toe-tapping “Yes We Can,” by associate artistic director Spencer Gavin Hering.

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