Freespace Dance hosts lively 40+ Showcase at its Montclair studio

Rick Kitts and Susan Thomasson dance in "Can't Get Started."

ROBERT COOPER

Rick Kitts and Susan Thomasson dance in “Can’t Get Started.”

If older dancers know one thing, it’s that the clock is ticking. So when last year’s 40+ Showcase proved successful, artistic director Donna Scro did not hesitate to program a second edition this fall. If not now, when?

In fact, the 40+ Showcase, which returned on Saturday, promises to become an annual highlight of the New Jersey dance season, hosted by Scro’s company, Freespace Dance, in its studio-theater at Yoga Montclair. These never-say-die performers intend to keep going, twirling gracefully — always gracefully — toward 50+ and beyond.

This bunch has energy to spare. Their experience seems limitless; and with such diversity among them the 40+ Showcase offers a wonderfully varied evening of dance.

Lynn Needle’s “Shakti” supplied the eye-opening curtain raiser. A disciple of the late Alwin Nikolais, Needle knows a thing or two about costuming; her trio arrived outfitted in glinting, metallic ball-gowns that hid the dancers’ legs beneath collapsible cones. Elbow-length gloves ended in spindly, limp fingers. As the dancers swayed, undulated and posed in backbends, they resembled extraterrestrial models voguing down a catwalk on some far-off planet.

In striking contrast, schlumpy Maxine Steinman wore a dress like a potato sack.  Steinman’s solo, “Silence Is,” was anything but glamorous. Appearing to hang in space, she moved in small, painful increments, collapsing in stages, groveling and lying stricken. Raising herself up, she poked a finger into her arm, as if giving herself an injection, and then pulled back to the edges of the small, dim area in which she seemed confined.

In “Grace,” a dance of sisterhood, Denise Brown and Kathy Costa held hands and supported each other, their figures meshing or lying parallel on the ground. As significant as their weighty, sculpted movements were the smiles they exchanged, reassuring us even when they parted.

Preceded by a scream, Rick Kitts burst onto the stage in “Go,” a manic solo featuring run-on bits of dialog, snatches of song and compulsive acting-out. If this were a movie, it might be called “A Ham Is Born.” Yet Kitts’ over-the-top energy gave this program a boost.

Growing older means having time to reflect. Duet partners Malcolm Low and Charmaine Warren were businesslike, not mushy about it in Low’s “Speakeasy/DEVOTION.” Marching around the perimeter of the space, they deposited their stuff in a corner and took turns reading their thoughts aloud. While Warren recounted significant conversations with friends, Low spun and tumbled in the background. He recounted finding true love at 40, while she sidled up to him or pushed against the wall. Even the simplest movements have an impact when the dancing is sincere.

Choreographed by Joelle Van Sickle and performed by Jennifer Colandrea, “Unbroken” suggested a loosening of psychic bonds. Imprisoned within a circle of rose petals, Colandrea lay flat upon the ground or knelt with her head bowed, but found the inner resilience to stir, to stretch and ultimately to free herself.

All these pieces made up only half the program. Highlights after intermission included Donna Scro’s “I am,” which gave viewers a second chance to study the dancer’s fluid movements without the accompanying text. “The grind” was Kim Whittam’s moody and disheveled response to Shostakovich, and to life in general; and in Peter Pucci and Carol Parker’s hilarious courtship number, “Can’t Get Started,” the irrepressible Kitts returned to woo Susan Thomasson, giving this exhausted tootsie a reason to perk up and swing.

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