12 Dancers Dancing: A Christmas in Cambridge (2010)

Eclectic weekend dance performances at the Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA, portrayed the diversity of talent and culture that is embedded in lifestyle, here, during the 21st Century.  The Dance Complex itself, formed in 1991, in order to secure the historic Odd Fellows Hall as a means to “promote, advance, sponsor, facilitate, and nurture creative and artistic work,” is a creation born of democratic, intellectual, and aesthetic ideals.  A physical locality coupled with a visionary mindset where “securing a community of artists is a higher priority than establishing an organizational bureaucracy,” the Dance Complex is the perfect venue for producer Honey Blonder to promote mixed genres of hip hop, ballet, modern, jazz, disco, street funk, belly dancing, step, gymnastics, and an all-male cast of full contact, jazz-funk dancers dressed in Santa Claus hats. 

Rainbow Tribe, Kelley Donovan, B Side, Contemporarily Out of Order,

Disco Brats, Derrick Davis, Brookline Academy of Dance, Deepa Srinath, Bright Pearl Dance Company, Johara and Jim Banta, and Legacy Dance Company, marked the line-up for two evenings chock-full of synchronized, soulful, innovative and interesting choreographies. Some of the most memorable contrasts included:

Men dancing in sneakers, while executing 180 degree dips and flawless turns (Rainbow Tribe); perfect spirals, arabesque layouts and Graham contractions (Brookline Academy); Egyptian costuming and shimmies (Johara and Jim Banta); the effortlessly flowing hands, “petite winged arms,” and repetitive circles (conducted with bowl on the side of her angled head) by (Bright Pearl Dance Troupe); spectacular sparkling outfits, hot pants, and disco white boots (with taps), and full body lifts (Legacy Dance);  the all-maleness of Bside; and amazing modern physical feats by Samantha Wilson and Laurel Reveley (Kelley Donovan and Dancers). 


These were, of course, in accordance with inherent nature of all tensions associated with the art of dance and of the Christmas holidays, punctuated by a stilling, maybe even disquieting performance by singer Steffani Bennet of “winter Song, written by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Her beautiful yet haunting voice reminded me of our human frailties and imbalances, in the face of a holiday marked by rejuvenation, reconciliation, and renewal of spirit. 


Similarly, the opening 30 minutes was characterized by Alissa Johnson, a frozen white ballerina (stockings, leotard, skirt), accented by silver bands on her thin arms, a silver Tiara, and lone silver ball held lethargically in both hands, while she sat motionless on a box, her feet not properly crossed in the “fifth position” perfect mode. No breath or heart rhythms could be detected. Shadows cast from one bright light behind her right shoulder only intensified the ambiguousness of her being – at once childlike and innocent – evoking the holiness, peace and spirit of the season – while simultaneously detached and disassociated from any body or (seemingly) any emotion. 


Quieted in that moment, I couldn’t help feel the tightening in my temples, the crinkling of my brow, and the slow squeezing of warm tears out of my eyes’ corners, as memories of those loved and lost blurred my vision of that unmovable, meditative figure that resolved into the contemplations of my mind.  In acknowledgment of the emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic pleasures of the season and the night to come, I thanked God for the opportunity to celebrate a personal and collective humanness with an audience from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and 12 Dancers Dancing.  Hats off to Honey Blonder for a job very well done.

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