Lucy Vurusic Riner’s first evening-length dance in five years for RE|Dance Group, the ensemble she leads with co-founder Michael Estanich, took place at Filament Theatre in Portage Park November 21-24, on a series of fairly clear evenings that fortuitously allowed a view of the moon. Over the hour-long performance, Vurusic Riner and the seven other members of the ensemble explored shifting moods and emotions drawn by the phases of the moon as it tugs on tides and everything else in its orbit around our planet (anyone who has worked in the service industry can tell you the very tangible reality of full moon fever). The small yet spacious Filament Theatre set the right tone for a performance couched in gentle vulnerability; three rows of chairs were arranged around the perimeter of the performance area and dancers would come within inches of the first row as they swept through the space.
The piece opened with Vurusic Riner alone on stage, supine with limbs extended gently skyward, bathed in a soft spotlight. It ends the same way, and in between moves through a series of short and rapidly shifting sections that establish a kind of meta-rhythm for the show. There are a handful of slightly theatrical interludes with excerpts from Linda Beirds’ poem “Lunar Eclipse” scattered between full ensemble sections, duets, trios and solos. The music, most of which was composed for the show by Mark D. Burns, shifted just as frequently, from ambient to lyrical to beat-driven. However, the overarching spirit of the piece was tenderness: dancers leaning on each other, tending, even lightly grooming one another. In fact, sections with movements suggesting combat or conflict didn’t come across as fully realized or committed as those in which dancers expressed playfulness, care or regard. Some of the standout moments were in the simplest themes—arms extending out from the chest repeatedly in a receptive gesture. I found myself most compelled by the solos (every dancer took one) which gave space for the individuality of each ensemble member to shine.
In tarot, the moon indicates intuition and the shadow realm, and a quiet current of darkness and uncertainty runs through the sweetly communal spirit of “What the Moon Pulls.” In the final, full-circle moment of the piece, when Vurusic Riner was alone again onstage, fingers and toes gently grasping toward the sky, she stated fear of the vastness that surrounds us all. And yet as I stepped outside onto the moonlit stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in the quietude of Portage Park, what resonated was how in all that vastness, what we have to hold onto is each other. (Sharon Hoyer)
“What the Moon Pulls” at Filament Theatre, 4041 North Milwaukee, November 21-24 at 8pm.