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Dance Review

Donovan's troupe lets go kinetically

Twisting, spiraling movements, and quick shifts of dynamics filled the Kelley Donovan & Dancers performance Friday night. Twisting, spiraling movements, and quick shifts of dynamics filled the Kelley Donovan & Dancers performance Friday night.

Kelley Donovan's compelling new 30-minute dance "Inside of the Ending" is about letting go, about accepting impermanence. But you don't get that from any grand dramatic contrivance or narrative structure. It's subtle, organically woven into the very fabric of the movement. You can see it in the way the dancers begin the dance, a phalanx of nine walking slowly, almost trancelike through the space. One by one, they peel off to do their own thing. Each explodes into bursts of frenetic energy, with different variations of spins and falls, arms jabbing and legs kicking, until, as if they've gotten something out of their systems, they fall back into that slow deliberate walk. This time, however, each is on his/her own path.

You can also sense the underlying context in gestures that come back time and again in slightly different contexts -- a defiant thrust of the fist, bent arm anchored at the elbow, or meditation hands (thumb to middle finger) that reach forward and down as the back deeply arches. It's a move that looks like both centering and surrender.

The choreography has the idea of letting go embedded into its very aesthetic. You can see it most sharply on the choreographer herself, who disappointingly makes only the shortest of appearances in this work, but enters midway like the eye of the cyclone that has been generating movement all the while. She is like a double helix in motion, constantly flipping perspective. She seems to reach out and coil inward at the same time, her body twisting and spiraling, arms curving forward and back with quick shifts of dynamics. Many of Donovan's dancers do an excellent job finding a similar kinetic flow, especially Bec Conant. She takes the idea into slow motion with a solo of deep bends and reaches, arms curling behind the head as the body moves forward, and an arabesque that dips with breathtaking abandon into a penchée to the floor. In a few spots, however, there are just too many dancers on the stage (the piece features 20 in all, including Donovan) and the busy blur detracts from the purity of focus.

Set to a collage of electronic noise and muttering, "Inside of the Ending" is a somber piece, and like many of Donovan's dances, it doesn't so much develop as unfurl in a fluid stream of energy subverted by quick changes of mood and dynamic, like a flow of water interrupted by something passing through it, the flick of a finger or a whole hand. Where the piece ends up is not so different from where it started.

In celebration of the company's 10th anniversary, Donovan invited current and former dancers with her company to contribute works as well. Works by Melissa Gendreau, Heather Bryce, and Conant were engaging if not memorable, and all were given energetic, committed performances. But the only one that seemed fully formed was the appealing "The Shape of a Day," a duet choreographed and performed by Allison Vinal and Kelly Collins that had a visceral rhythmic punch as it contrasted crisp, sharp-angled slices of arms and legs with controlled and deliberate shifts of weight.

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Kelley Donovan & Dancers

At: Dance Complex, Friday night