Do yourself a favor and head over to the New Hazlett Theatre and The Glue Factory Project, which is the love child of former Dance Alloy Theater artistic director Beth Corning. Made up of dancers over 40 (although apparently everyone was between 50 and 60), “A Seat at the Table” offered slices of life –some delightful, others poignant or thoughtful, and sometimes all at once.
At first you thought that they looked terribly fit for their age. Janet Lilly, former principal dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, started things off by elegantly balancing on her hip at the corner of a long table covered with a black cloth. She became tentative, fearful and expansive by turn and inserted an impressive yoga headstand into her long, drawn-out phrase.
Then she slowly slid along the back of the table only to disappear before she popped her head back up. All of a sudden she was joined by Corning and then Cathy Young, former principal dancer with Danny Buraczeski’s JAZZDANCE in Minneapolis and currently associate professor, chair and co-founder of the department of Theater and Dance at Ursinus College near Philadelphia.
That was a Corning trademark: follow a complex, perhaps troubled moment with a turn of events or a surprise. Keep the audience off balance.
There was more as the women began to emerge from the back of the table sitting on red leather stools with wheels. Were these the seats at the table? Of course not, for Corning had much more up her sleeve.
The moments of uncertainty were well worth the wait, although nothing that followed would be easily understood. For the mature audience members, it was full of layers born out of the perspective a a life well-lived. For the young (and I can only guess), there was not a recital of limitations, but a banquet of possibilities.
Each of these artists had a solo, created from their own words and personalities. There was a delectable game of musical chairs, certainly another metaphor for life. The images, the kind that last well after a performance, were plentiful.
Corning offered a few other threads, the most prominent of which was the use of red in the lacquered tables and chairs of varying Alice-in-Wonderland variety. Even the most mundane gestures took on real meaning from the magnificent cast. For the record, “Seat” included a to-die-for trio of men, including the whimsical Peter Sparling (former principal dancer, Martha Graham Dance Company and Thurnau professor of dance at the University of Michigan), the energetic Michael Blake (Jose Limon Dance Company, Donald Byrd/The Group, now with PARADIGM Dance in New York City) and the lanky David Covey (award-winning lighting designer for Merce Cunningham, performer and professor of dance at Ohio State University).
If this was vintage dance, it was a very good year.