Collateral Existence


Friday, Feb. 23–Sunday, Feb. 25
The Fruit, Durham

There’s a promising, accessible new contemporary dance company in Durham. If its technique and ambition are more advanced than its artistic vision, that’s a strong foundation to build on.

The choreographer Courtney Owen-Muir’s OM Grown Dancers spent a year working in Raleigh until last summer, when Owen-Muir opened a yoga, music, and dance venue, Threehouse Studios, on Lakewood Avenue. Last weekend at the Fruit, the company presented three original works: Collateral Existence, which had premiered at the EDANCO festival in the Dominican Republic last year; I Move (Because) It Moves Me, the debut of the OM Still Growing company of eleven-to-sixteen-year-old dancers; and ALKHAWF, a world premiere.

Collateral Existence was a concise introduction to the company’s aesthetic and strengths. Highly drilled, highly proficient dancers were put through their paces in a piece that was very kinetic, with lots of acrobatic tumbling, and very emotional, with lots of collapsing, gasping embraces. It was not immune to clichésthe music mix somehow added up to sound exactly like Erik Satiebut it was a striking demonstration of what these dancers can do.

After the charming middle piece, which we are not reviewing due to the dancers’ early developmental stage, came ALKHAWF, the evening’s most ambitious and problematic work. In its central device, dancers entered a box with a see-through door and histrionically confronted their fears while being projected on a screen in a three-quarters overhead view. This staging device has potential, and the movement was characteristically athletic. Autumn Nicholas’s music was stunning, especially when she sang live at the end.

But this new piece is still in search of a stable center. The eye was often confusedly divided between the box and the screen, and the chaos was amplified by the choice to make the dancers periodically unleash raw, screaming torrents of words. You often couldn’t hear them over the thunderous music. When you could, the text left something to be desired: “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” should probably not be intoned with such profundity. And the title, Arabic for “the fear,” is problematic, because there is nothing remotely Arabic about the work. But ALKHAWF could become something sturdy with some editing, and this is an admirably all-in company with plenty of room to grow.