Review | Seán Curran, Third Coast Percussion

October 6, 2018
by Michael Huebner

It’s hard to imagine a more integrated merger of dance and percussion than that presented Friday at the Alys Stephens Center.

Two dynamic ensembles, each a powerful force in their respective art forms, combined for two retrospective works, then let loose in a world premiere with boundless expression.

No stranger to premieres, the New York-based dance troupe Seán Curran Company has presented 27 of them around the world, according to its web site. Third Coast Percussion, by its very nature, has commissioned a long list of composers on its way to a 2017 Grammy award.

“Everywhere All the Time,” an ASC commission, was presented for the first time at this event, and represented an expansive departure from the two works presented earlier in the program, each reworkings from 2000 and 2001.

Three large movable gates, adorned with black patterns suggestive of woody vines, pervaded “Everywhere.” They were a kind of abstract scenery, their placement defining the varying moods of Seán Curran’s choreography. Sheer windblown costumes suggested underwater movement as the cast of nine “swam” about the stage. The percussionists – two on stage, two in the balcony – began by exploring a variety of tom-toms in Donnacha Dennehy‘s score, “Surface Tension.”

As the sonic atmosphere shifted gears, so did the choreography. Startling percussive bursts and eerie harmonics from bowed metal bars led to greater freedom from the individual dancers, showcasing their fluid, yet rigorous athleticism. During a frenetic solo dance, each dancer exited the stage in tense, dramatic moments, leaving only contemplation. Only then could viewers realize how fully engaged they were.

“Abstract Concrete,” a new incarnation of a Curran work first created in 2000, began the show, presenting 10 dancers lined up in rows and dressed in brightly colored leotards. Branching out, weightless lifts and impeccably precise ensemble reflected the youthful rhythmic and emotional character of TCP and David Skidmore’s score. Quick, stage-wide movement, together with outstretched limbs and a web of interwoven patterns, contributed to the joyful atmosphere.

Even more ebullient was “Quadrabox Redux,” also a revision of an earlier dance. Four dancers sitting on wooden boxes in a remarkably complex display of hand percussion, with some foot moves thrown in. Call it patty-cake on steroids.

The program and New York premiere of “Everywhere All the Time” will take place Oct. 24-27 at the Harvey Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, part of BAM’s 2018 Next Wave Festival.


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