Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
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Mari Meade Dance Collective: On Leaving at TriskelionArts

Mari Meade Dance Collective: On Leaving at TriskelionArts

Mari Meade Dance Collective
June 8, 2019

Freeform Review:

This weekend at TriskelionArts, the Mari Meade Dance Collective premiered their newest full-length work, On Leaving.

Choreographer and Artistic Director Mari Meade is known for tackling complex, emotional subjects, and On Leaving takes perhaps the biggest risk with its content. The piece follows two sisters as they journey through grief after the death of their mother.

Grief, as a concept, straddles two opposing ideas: it is both universal and highly personal. Meade deftly weaves these facets together, allowing the audience to engage with generic themes on a deeply personal level.

We open with a series of tableaus that ping-pong us through the sisters’ daily lives. The strong narrative line asks for significant acting chops from the cast, and they deliver, drawing us into Meade’s quirky realm with unwavering commitment.

When their mother suddenly passes away, the sisters’ strained relationship is thrown from its normal orbit. The solemn, picturesque funeral scene, which makes lovely use of the entire cast in canon, feels abrupt and “too soon”—the way real funerals often do.

From here, the sisters enter a bizarre, and at times frightening, abstract world, perhaps meant to reflect their mental landscapes in the aftermath of tragedy. Allison Beler gives an especially poignant performance, clinging to denial and independence in the face of her altered reality.

It falls on the ensemble to guide the mood as the sisters navigate their trauma. Choreography of this vein can easily skew towards insincere drama. But Meade’s instinctive grasp of group movement and pacing—as well as her spare use of eerie, skeletal flower props—creates a fragile, genuine space for real emotion to rage.

The spell hiccupped once or twice: when voiceover or speech made a wandering entrance to a mostly nonverbal world. I struggle with the combination of dialogue and dance, and wish the script had been stripped to essential questions.

But by the night’s end, there were marked sniffles in the house. Rarely does narrative concert dance evoke emotion worthy of a novel. Meade and her dancers have achieved it with this work, and I hope it graces a new stage soon.

Author: Elizabeth Shew
Photo Credit: Benjamin Hoste

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