In an empty second floor retail loft in the Houston Pavilions, recipe Hope Stone Dance Company has set up a pastiche of dining room table chairs, settees and carpet squares flanking a portable dance floor, ensuring no two seats are the same, literally.
Artistic director and choreographer Jane Weiner assembles eleven dancers, accompanied by almost forty musicians and singers for “la vie a pleines dents” (to bite life with all of one’s teeth.) Featuring special guests, Mercury Baroque and the Houston Boychoir, “la vie a pleines dents” is epic in scale and girth.
Sans the limits of a traditional theater, the dancers are free to run circles around and through the entire space, often bounding right into the audience. With a rushed athleticism, the dancers eat up all the space they can consume.
Weiner’s choreography does not allow for anything to settle for long, the movement pushes itself forward with aggressive flicks, tosses and endlessly cascading gestures. Effortless partnering is a signature of Hope Stone, but noteworthy is a brief, yet tender duet between company veteran Joe Modlin and newcomer Jesus Acosta. Despite their height difference, they maneuver in and out of dynamic lifts.
Dancer Brit Wallis brings a vital and wild edge to “la vie a pleines dents,” her movements undulate between vulnerability and chaos. Mercury Baroque’s music infuses a weight and urgency into Weiner’s choreography and Weiner’s dancers lace Mercury Baroque’s music with humor and pertinence.
Almost sounding otherworldly paired with Mercury Baroque’s soprano Ana Trevino- Godfrey, the Houston Boychoir joins the performance near the end of the evening with a dramatic entrance from behind the audience. The jungle gym like set of wooden shipping crates designed by David Graeve serves as an interactive backdrop.
Performers climbed up and across the set, perching and resting as quiet voyeurs of the dancing unfolding below them. Weiner carves out a truly interesting and intricate space for “la vie a pleines dents,” and while themes of perseverance, intimacy and loss hang around the dance, Weiner’s main point remains elusive — and that’s alright.
— ROSIE TRUMP
Rosie Trump is a dance choreographer and filmmaker, the Dance Program Director at Rice University and the editor of the blog readingthedance.wordpress.com.