Freespace Dance: mystical movement in Montclair



Donna Scro of Freespace Dance in “Breath and Beat.”

Freespace Dance has a new home. With a shiny, new bamboo floor and a handful of stage lights hanging from the ceiling, the long room feels inviting and it comes with all the good karma generated by Yoga Montclair, the host organization.

The troupe gave its second-ever performance at “The Space” at Yoga Montclair on Friday, offering a mystical program choreographed by company director Donna Scro and including two premieres.

“Breath and Beat,” the first new piece, seemed like a sequel to “Stumbling Blocks, Stepping Stones,” a solo Scro choreographed for herself earlier this year.

In “Stumbling Blocks” the floor becomes a maze with bricks and paving stones laid in patterns that suggest the footprint of a vanished city. Squat columns stand in front with a round, truncated “tower” to the left, an altar of some sort in the corner and a road running through.

Scro’s dance begins with a reluctant awakening, and as she travels through this psychic landscape, curling around these structures or propping herself against them, her sweeping, reeling movements suggest she is clearing away obstacles. At the end, she dismisses the whole scene with a wave and vanishes out the door. When Scro reappears, toward the middle of the group work “Breath and Beat,” it feels as if she has just come from that place littered with debris. But she adopts a powerful stance, legs wide apart to anchor a fluid swaying of her upper body. With that movement she seems ready to unleash energy like the crack of a whip; the goddess Durga comes to mind.

Scro has not come to destroy, however, but perhaps to renew herself through her electric contacts with the other dancers: Jessica Mantell, Lauren Melusky-Smith and Omni Kitts-Ferrara. “Breath and Beat” would simply be a lovely composition, recycling and subtly varying thematic material, if those contacts didn’t seem so loaded. Scro circles Mantell and lifts her. She embraces Melusky-Smith and catches her. And she presses her forehead against Kitts-Ferrara’s with an intensity that burns.



Omni Kitts-Ferrara and Lauren Melusky-Smith of Freespace Dance in “Subtext.”

The dance’s signature theme is a movement in which a dancer (Mantell, initially) leans her head back and opens her upper body. When Scro adopts this pose at the end of the dance, we can believe her “third eye” and all her chakras are fully open. Accompanying the performance live with guitar, percussion and wordless vocals, the composer known as 13 Hands and singer Katherine Oakes contributed a transcendent atmosphere.

In comparison, the evening’s second premiere, called “Honey,” was a light-hearted romp.A short piece, set to popular songs, it might easily be expanded.

Other pieces on the program included “Home,” in which Alex Biegelson, partnering Kitts-Ferrara, displayed his gentleness and fearless attack; and “Subtext,” an intriguing, gestural composition with a surprise ending.


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