Up close and personal, the audience mingled with the members of the Ogden Movemeant Collective at the Monarch in downtown Ogden Saturday night. We were inside an experience — entitled Social Undistance — that could only be witnessed in the present moment. We were invited to realize that our breath is a manifestation of life. As if on a journey through the mind, we were guided through a structure of stopping points. Each room in which we paused was a real place to be, a real idea, a real memory, a real emotion. I believe all in attendance would agree with me — we were part of the Collective as the dancers moved, at times so close we could feel their breath on our bodies, their emotions meshing with our own.
A haunting solo, a sense of quiet, created by jo Blake, was performed in a room we could not see fully into, the distance seemingly an acknowledgment of something lost or destroyed. The dancer breathed despair, tortured by the ghost of what once was — she seemed to envision it — a part of herself long gone. The room was cold, sterile, even hostile. The dance spoke of a world ravaged by an enemy relentless in its pursuit to destroy humanity. I felt panic as the dancer found no resolution — no ability to hope or heal from the fear.
We were soon escorted into a tiny new space. It felt like a spot in the mind that held lost memory. An ingenious setting, this room, reminiscent of a comfortable living area, was totally occupied. How, I thought, were the four dancers, who were kneeling together in perfect symmetry, going to find a free space in which to move? But as the music released tension, evincing peace, serenity and wholeness of thought, the dancers replaced each other in the space, suggesting order and intelligence. Smartly executed, a time before our current chaos was reimagined in a kaleidoscope of movement.
Cozy memories of home were displaced as the evening’s message reasserted itself; the work rejected its initially harmonious voice in favor of stark change. The dancers began to reach for each other, making contact, bearing weight, sharing burdens — but they did so with fear and distrust. Mistrust grew until all withdrew, pressed into the corners of what now seemed a stifling room. Like the rest of the evening’s events, Two Fold, choreographed by Fiona Gitlin, was well done and emotionally evocative. However, I felt saddened that this piece turned from its origin — happiness — to embrace a colder viewpoint.
The program came full circle in the open arms of a single dancer who, in the beginning and in the end, beckoned me to open my arms. We were invited to move with singular focus into a new world grown within commiserate understanding, accumulated experiences, refined strength, and self-worth. The opening and closing works, Unheard Community (by Jessica Gabler and Conner Erickson) and Underneath the Edge (by Alicia Trump), served as narratives of the collective Covid experience. Crazed, jerking motions of hands and feet swiped at imagined barriers, the essence of life withheld and drained from tired bodies. Twisted limbs protruded with fierce angularity. A silence of lost companionship powered the performance, filling my mind with the same possession of voices that frayed the minds of the dancers.
Beauty resides in the relentless endurance of human life. These works understood this. Frenzied movement, interrupted by supple undulations, followed a trajectory into the arms of one another. Unceasing walking and running came to mean perseverance and survival. Throughout, the works powerfully treated the struggle to maintain the self in the face of emotional and physical exhaustion. The Ogden Movemeant Collective is a much-needed addition to the Utah dance scene. I strongly hope the community will support this innovative and thought-provoking experience.
This performance continues Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26. Tickets here.
This article is published in collaboration with loveDANCEmore.org.
Tara Lemons is an Ogden-based dance artist, and choreographer. She enjoyed a professional career in New York, Las Vegas, Japan, and Utah before accepting a position as Dance Director at a local arts high school. Currently, a senior at Weber State University majoring in Dance Performance and Choreography, she was recently awarded the Lindquist Endowment for Creative and Artistic Endeavors Student Fellowship grant from Weber State University.