A Hypnotic Human Experience

Monday, June 4, 2007


Exhale Dance Tribe’s opening performance of “A Hypnotic Human Experience” at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival starred company founders Missy Lay Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard in a mini-Broadway review with their lithe “tribe” of 11 toned dancers. The piece dazzled in nine short vignettes, easily conveying their audience to that magic place where oversize emotion reigns supreme and the physicality of the young movers onstage is mesmerizing.
Dancing to recorded music heavy on guitars and female vocalists such as Brandi Carlisle, Mindy Smith and Tori Amos, with a little Pop and Hip Hop, these confident and engaging performers turned the small performing space in the Contemporary Arts Center’s black box theater into a theater for the signature Exhale style of attack, emotion and attitude that makes this troupe one of the most innovative and enjoyable to hit the Cincinnati scene in some time.

Aside from a brief showing from choreographers Zimmer and Hubbard in a duet (Hubbard is nursing an injured foot), the stage belonged to nine young women who demonstrated preternatural poise and virtuosity in a blend of Hip Hop, African, jazzy and modern movements. Whether they were quick, slow, playful, sinuous, strutting, yearning, sharp, or pleading, there was a sensitivity and camaraderie between the performers that drew on the shared mastery of their stunningly flexible limbs, their centeredness and their joyfulness as they flung themselves from deeply grounded positions into sharply whipping turns and explosive leaps.

Standout soloists Alessandra Marconi, Kristen Malarky and Mia Deweese each took an emotion and ran with it, though their performances sometimes outclassed the concept of the dance. And, if in some of the ensemble work, I felt as if I was seeing the culminating moment of a show without quite knowing what exactly that show was about — that didn’t make it any less fun to watch.

The most astonishing segment was one in which there was no movement whatsoever. In “Everything In Its Right Place,” we saw everyday reality as a grim progression in the style of short news photos. It was illuminating to watch a changing series of imaginary but resonant motionless tableaux in which the dancers were caught mid-gesture in a representative series of innocent group scenes like talking or eating which gradually morphed into archetypal recreations of violence and horror. It was left to the viewer to make connections between them. “A Hypnotic Human Experience” was, in fact, pretty hypnotic and certainly human, drawing as it did on young movers giving nothing less than their all in performances that seemed to come from the center of their being. Grade: A