The first remarkable aspect of FLICfest is its venue. The Irondale Center, a former Sunday school space in the historic Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, is a dramatically beautiful community theater that has been presenting live performance for over 25 years. As I enter I feel lost in a labyrinth of high windows and winding staircases. The audience is seated on all three sides of the performers, and select audience members can enjoy a birds-eye balcony view. High ceilings present an incredible spaciousness not easily found in Brooklyn. At once timeless and sacred, it is the perfect home for this innovative festival.
Jillian Sweeney in her own choreography ,Vulture-Wally. Photo Julie Lemberger
The evening opens with Vulture Wally, a thought provoking work-in-progress by Jillian Sweeney. Based on the 19th-century Austrian Alps novel Geier-Wally, the piece uses movement, song, music and dialogue to tell a story.
Vulture Wally unravels as a series of chapters, vignettes titled as various body parts (Chapter 1: Face, Chapter 2: Eyes, etc). The piece is performed by ferocious, beautiful women and explores feminist themes. Perhaps the defining moment is a brief interlude in which the dancers gather to chant about a female huntress and her relationship with "the bear," – here, a euphemism for the archetypal male encountered by every woman at some point in her life.
The subtlety interactive nature of Sweeney's work engages. At one point she invites members of the audience up on stage,to simultaneously learn and perform a line dance. On several occasions we are asked to join the performers in song. The movement, music and theatrical elements flow seamlessly. Despite the vast space, the piece is so intimate it feels as if it is taking place in my living room.
Summation Dance Company's Deep End, the second full -length piece of the evening, is a mesmerizing exploration of survival in a constantly changing environment. Choreographed by Sumi Clements, the work features another cast of fierce women.
The nine woman cast moves with exhilarating freedom. I watch on the edge of my seat as they whirl, glide and toss themselves into huge leaps and intricate floor work. This powerful group catapults across the vast space like stones skipping on water. Relaxed and grounded, Clements' movement shows a strong Varone influence.The stage never feels clunky or crowded and the dancers move amongst one another as effortlessly as a school of fish.
Summation Dance Company in Deep End ; Choreography by Sumi Clements ;Photo Julie Lemberger
The premise of Deep End is survival; an army of powerful women attempts to define themselves in a lonely, isolating environment (perhaps New York City?). At times the drama feels contrived, but the movement's intention is clear, and I can relate to it.
Deep End excites the audience and reminds me how thrilling pure movement and design can be.