NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 15, 2013

Together again

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Five dance companies will appear at Marblehead Little Theatre this weekend in a performance that is also a revival.

It is the first appearance in two years by the North Shore Dance Alliance, a group that was founded in 2001 to support dance programs on the North Shore.

“The effort here is to rekindle it,” said Darlene Doyle, a board member of the alliance. “It is an effort to reinvigorate this organization, because we feel it is important to have dance represented on the North Shore.”

The program lost direction after founder Mary Lee Karlins retired from her leadership position with the alliance, although she still teaches at the Marblehead School of Ballet.

But with appearances this weekend by five local ensembles — Exit Dance Theatre of Newburyport, the North Shore Civic Ballet, Hyperbole Dance of Marblehead, Forty Steps Dance from Nahant and Deadfall Dance of Andover — there should be plenty of renewed spirit on stage.

Two short films by Jeremiah Story of Merrimac, and one by Gordon Przbyla titled “Places We Don’t Dance But We Should,” will also be featured at the performance.

The Civic Ballet, a nonprofit associated with the Marblehead School of Ballet, will perform two pieces created by Ivan Korn, their choreographer in residence. “Ramo Verde,” a solo piece performed by Shauna Whalen, is “based on the metaphor of spreading your wings,” Korn wrote in the program notes. The second dance, “There There,” is a duet featuring Whalen and Korn that “explores — through sharp movement in unison — the urge to arrive at an end.”

“These are modern pieces with ballet-trained dancers,” said Paula Shiff, artistic director of the Civic Ballet, which she founded in 1974 with Florence Whipple. “Ballet is your base of all dance forms.”

In addition to choreographing works for the Civic Ballet, Korn teaches a class in modern dance at the school.

Exit Dance Theatre will present two works, including a duet called “Trapped,” which company co-founder Fontaine Dubus has described as “about being stuck in a confined space with someone.”

“The duet is danced by Wendy Hamel and Karl Granoth,” Dubus said. “They choreographed it together, through a process of improvisation. It’s to a Bjork song. It’s edgy and fun to watch.”

Exit’s dances often evolve in collaboration with musicians and through what Dubus calls “improvisational exploration.”

“It works well to have the dancers start out without any parameters,” she said. “There’s no rules at all. We like starting pieces that way. More often than not, we get really good ideas. Beautiful, spontaneous things come out of it.”

The second piece that Exit will perform has roots in West African dance and drumming traditions and was choreographed by Greg Coles.

“We’re based at The Dance Place in Newburyport, and Greg also teaches there,” Dubus said. “We did say, ‘Let’s do something really different that the audience probably hasn’t seen before.’”

The dance, which is five or six minutes long, also takes a lot of energy.

“It’s so cardio,” Dubus said. “It’s a killer.”

While Exit is in its 27th season, Hyperbole Dance of Marblehead was founded last year by Nikki Sell, who choreographed the three dances the company will perform this weekend.

“It’s a theatrical mix of jazz and modern,” said Sell, who studied dance at the New England Conservatory and also teaches adult classes. “There’s a narrative structure. There are often props, and there’s also often text used.”

The dances are called “The Unignorable Question,” “Annie Ever After” and “Bumps in the Night.”

“‘Annie’ has a ton of props, plus text,” Sell said. “‘Unignorable Question’ is more of an abstract piece.”

The latter dance addresses the notion that everyone has an underlying question, which they need to have answered.

“I grew up adopted,” Sell said. “For me, the question has always been: Who are my parents? But it could be anything.”

Sell first had the idea for “Bumps in the Night,” which addresses issues of abuse, nearly 20 years ago.

“It’s evil; it’s really dark,” Sell said. “But I’ve had great feedback on it.”

Sell had wanted to found her own company for years and finally took the plunge when she turned 40 as a way to begin “part two of my career,” she said.

Sell is especially happy to be performing as part of the Dance Alliance.

“I’m excited to see there’s a lot of really professional companies on the North Shore,” she said. “This is great.”

IF YOU GO

What: North Shore Dance Alliance Dance Collaborative

When: Tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Marblehead Little Theatre, 12 School St.

How much: $15 for students and seniors, $20 general admission, at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/490435