Hub City Sounds showcases best of Central Jersey dance scene

Kelli McGovern and Mandy Stallings dance in "This is Where I Live."

Kelli McGovern and Mandy Stallings dance in “This Is Where I Live,” by choreographer Cleo Mack.

Hold on — don’t toss the sunscreen yet. Summer isn’t over while the free performances hold out. In New Brunswick, that means summer doesn’t end until Sept. 26, the last day of the Hub City Sounds festival, which regales the public with cultural attractions presented free-of-charge in local parks and theaters. (Visit for details.)

Six dance companies joined the festival lineup on Saturday, when the program at the George Street Playhouse was called “Motion: Best of Central New Jersey Dance.” Curated by Lauren Connolly of CoLAB Arts, the groups offered small but tempting samples of their repertory. Most of the pieces were solos or duets, yet they varied widely in style. The presentations ranged from Claire Porter’s zany movement monologues to “St. Petersburg Waltz,” a haunting solo of remembrance choreographed by Sean Curran; and from the romantic airs of Roxey Ballet’s “Narcisa” to the interlocking figures of “This is Where I Live,” a plotless duet by Cleo Mack.

Dancers and choreographers Loretta Fois and Sabatino Verlezza opened the program with a light-hearted piece designed to appeal to anyone whose hopes of connecting have ever been frustrated by an automated phone system. In “For Support, Please Press All Buttons,” guest artist Lisa Grimes sits to one side absorbed in monitoring her computer screen, while Fois and Verlezza frolic around (and dangerously over and between) the cords of two old-fashioned telephones stretched between chairs.

Claire Porter doesn’t need props in her inspired solo “Diorama Moment,” in which she plays a museum guide leading a tour group past a giant painting. In fact, she does better without them. While delivering her spiel, she stumbles, gambols and pirouettes. Yet the charm of this piece resides as much in what we can’t see. The invisible diorama she points to is apparently limitless; and as she describes its details, the pageant of history curls around and the picture eerily begins to reflect the present.

Dancer Bryan Maitland is a long-time member of Freespace Dance, and his solo excerpted from “One Constant Change” underscores his stalwart energy as he stretches and contracts his body, rolls furiously across the floor or pauses momentarily suspended.

Twirling on pointe in a bell-shaped, satin gown, Roxey Ballet’s Tara Seymour seems to belong to a different world. Yet her encounter with a bare-chested Giovanni Ravelo, in “Narcisa,” is impassioned. Standing face to face, they mirror each other’s gestures; but then he turns away from her and she presses against his back as if he were a wall. Her personal drama needs to exhaust itself before he can return to claim her.

Porter takes the spotlight again, whipping herself around with questions great and small (the meaning of life or sour cream?) in another hilarious solo called “Current Events.” Then it’s time for the “St. Petersburg Waltz.” 10 Hairy Legs soloist Robert Mark Burke has been performing Curran’s piece for at least a year, and now it fits him like his own skin. Giving an understated yet profound performance, he negotiates a shifting boundary between dance and drama. The music is by Meredith Monk, and the dance pays tribute to her grandfather’s struggles. In “St. Petersburg Waltz,” lilting folk-dance steps become a dodgy game of survival, while the soloist’s gestures suggest the trials of war and persecution.

In “This Is Where I Live,” choreographer Cleo Mack also finds herself in a tight spot, this one defined by the intense relationship between two women. Mandy Stallings points to the floor around her feet, as if signaling the presence of an invisible boundary. Yet when she and Kelli McGovern intersect, Mack’s athletic choreography leaves little room for personal space.


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