Choreographer Donna Scro Samori has big plans for this season. On Oct. 27, her Montclair-based contemporary dance company, Freespace Dance, will unveil “A Woman’s Movement,” a multi-media extravaganza bringing together dance, music, visual arts, photography and film, and celebrating the creative genius of women.
Anticipating this “hear me roar” event, Freespace Dance presented excerpts from Scro Samori’s work-in-progress on Aug. 24, when it concluded its annual summer festival with an outdoor performance at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center in West Orange. The weekend program featured both ensemble pieces and a captivating solo danced by Stephanie Beauchamp, all from “A Woman’s Movement,” as well as sampling recent works like Scro Samori’s “I Know You.” Students enrolled in Freespace Dance’s summer classes rounded out the offerings, dancing a pair of tailor-made creations.
The work-in-progress included a boldly danced group piece featuring images of female solidarity, and another, more delicate dance in which the performers took turns in the spotlight, sinking slowly into thoughtful poses that suggested each woman’s nature as an individual. The most polished segment, however, was Beauchamp’s solo, danced to music by Ani DiFranco.
Touching herself, and seeming to welcome the realization that, yes, she was 100 percent genuine, Beauchamp began to frolic, delivering sharp kicks and playfully tracing a snaking line with her arm. In a voice-over, the winsome performer wondered about her “fear of men.” This emotion did not prove limiting, however, as she also ran freely in a wide circle. Leaving us with a sly, over-the-shoulder glance, she vowed to return and show us “strengths you still haven’t seen.”
Interspersed with these portions of “A Woman’s Movement” were selections from “I Know You,” a dance offering poignant glimpses into people’s lives. In a tender duet, Bryan Matland and Hannah Castoro reached for each other and embraced, taking hands and leaning into each other’s shoulders. She threw herself into a lift; he hunkered down, building a sturdy framework for her to cling to.
At a certain moment, though, Castoro wandered off and fell into a private reverie, while Matland watched her from a place that was clearly outside. When he rose and leaped, Matland seemed strong and unencumbered. Surprisingly, however, these two exited the stage together, whether as lovers or simply as comfortable, old friends we could not guess.
Another duet, this one for two men, paired Matland with Shawn Rawls in a study of rivalry, teamwork and companionship. The action was muscular, and when the going got tough, Rawls asked for a “Time Out,” which his buddy seemed happy to grant.
Perhaps the most affecting dance on this program, however, showed us a group of friends sharing the task of caring for one of their number, a wobbly and dependent character who found it difficult to stand. Every time she fell, her companions caught her, until inevitably a moment came when she found herself alone. Sinking and swaying, she pitched into a turn, crumpling but then finding the energy to rise again. The end of this dance saw this individual watching her own hand, perhaps marveling at her own ability to move and guide it.
Freespace Dance will present “A Woman’s Movement,” Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. at the Westminster Arts Center at Bloomfield College. Tickets are $20; visit brownpapertickets.com.
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