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Deviated Theatre's Aspiro

By Ruth Reader | Posted 10/8/2008

Deviated Theatre's Aspiro

Oct. 2-5, UMBC

This program looked overly ambitious for a debuting dance company, but Deviated Theatre proved it is not only performance ready, but that it is raising the standard for Maryland dance companies. Photographer and theater tech Enoch Chan and his fiancée, Kimmie Dobbs, started a dance company last winter. Dobbs has been dancing since she was 4, and Chan has always had a passion for photographing dancers; he quit his full-time job as a cameraman for Voice of America to pursue Deviated full time.

Aspiro consists of two acts and 15 scenes of modern dance and minor acrobatics set to a twisted story line reminiscent of Edward Gorey's children's books. The overture begins with the somber lulling of "Mercedes Lullaby," from the soundtrack to Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Protruding through center stage and extending to the lighting grid is a large metal pole that gives the impression of a circus tent. An announcer glibly introduces the lion tamer, the Siamese twins, and a host of other circus workers. And as they practice their individual crafts a pair of doddering men appear onstage. You might mistake them for clowns, but in fact this ill-willed duo is a pair of reapers intent on stealing the souls of the circus workers. The scene slowly evolves as the umbrella girl, whose soul has not been stolen, ventures into the underworld to follow the reapers and her friends.

The plot is simple, interesting, and well executed. Most importantly the dancing is undoubtedly unique. At times dancers are pedestrian in movement, at others fluid if not sensual, and yet at others dancers jerk spastically. Throughout the performance, the choreography is notably in tune with the story line and each character--and the dancers themselves are synchronized; no one misses a beat.

Deviated took a number of impressive risks in this first performance. Not only was the performance lengthy, but it incorporated some acrobatics. Using two thick silky red ribbons suspended from the ceiling, the fates--three goddesses that determine a soul's destiny--climb and dangle like spiders in a web eyeing their prey. The fates also were impressively costumed in black gauze head wraps and tight black unitards with an almost skeletal print. The rest of the cast was also well dressed, some in polka-dotted tutus and others in rumpled brown suits. Lit gently in purples, blues, and grays, the stage appeared ghastly and dreamlike.

This is the second performance of Aspiro this year; the first was held at Washington's Dance Place in May. What was most inspiring about this spot-on performance was not only the level of professionalism but also the sense of purpose in each dancer and in the show as a whole. Aspiro runs again Jan. 23-25, 2009, at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park.

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