Choreographer shows, tells, and explores

The performances in ''Sprout: An Evening of Dance and Discussion'' were preceded by explanations of how the dances came about. The performances in ''Sprout: An Evening of Dance and Discussion'' were preceded by explanations of how the dances came about. (Chris Engels)
By Karen Campbell
Globe Correspondent / June 2, 2009
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CAMBRIDGE - Choreographer Jody Weber broke the rules. Conventional wisdom in the dance world is "show, don't tell." But with "Sprout: An Evening of Dance and Discussion," which premiered at Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center over the weekend, Weber decided to do both, introducing each work with kernels of information that illuminated how the creativity began and what it meant. Aided by a cabaret setting, including wine and munchies, these first-hand interludes helped set the tone for a refreshingly informal, informative, and engaging concert.

For some of the works, an introduction was hardly needed, as the concepts spoke eloquently through the choreography. For one, the titular "Sprout," Weber's description of the work's evocation of "pure joy" actually undermined perception, as the dance looked a little tired and tame. Despite the cartwheels and tumbles, lifts and leaps, it never quite measured up to the exuberance of Brazilian composer Marcelos Zarvos's music.

For the newest work-in-progress, "Shed," it was helpful to have in mind the title's dual implications as "a place to store extra stuff" and "letting go." The work was inspired by conversations about visions of the future. Weber repeatedly heard that people wanted to simplify their lives and connect with each other. "Shed" opened with silliness on a stage littered with objects - hats, slippers, toys, a tiny bed - and gradually worked its way to a group dance infused with gestures of casting off and letting go: clenched hands bursting apart, sliding down arms and torsos as if trying to peel off old skin.

The opening "Covalent Bond" beautifully captured the idea of "a strong force that binds two atoms sharing the same electron," as Weber and Shannon Humphreys, in flowing ball gowns, spun and twirled around one another, arms raised, wrists flipping palms up, palms down. It was a sweeping, elegant little gem.

Maggie Husak, Margie Pierce, and Sarah Style gave a dynamic performance of last year's "Treadwreck," which evokes the busy, sometimes mindless cycle of busy daily life with angular, almost robotic phrases. The latest incarnation of "Of Bones and Marrow," which Weber has been working on for two years, is still overly long, but there is some rich material in the choreographer's exploration of our relationship to the earth. "I am you," Andrew Arnett's poetry declaims, and Weber's five dancers embody the aesthetic with movements of organic flow and the earthy weightedness of a mighty river or the playful skitters of raindrops dancing on rocks. Weber uses the stage with skill and sophistication, creating eye-catching patterns that coalesce and break apart.

The evening's most resonant work was the oldest, the poignant "Vestige," a 2004 trio about how stories change over time as true memory fades.


At: Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, Saturday night

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