Skin-tight Lycra in its natural habitat

While you may recognize her name from the captions of innumerable Bwog illustrations, Louise McCune expresses her artistic appreciation of a more sensual form in her review of Orchesis’ new show.

If you could only get your hands on the program, piece titles like “Bird Girl,” “Feral,” and “Late Anthropocene” should give you a clue to the subject of the MaMa Project’s Unearthed, showing tonight and tomorrow at 8 PM in Lerner’s Black Box theater. As presented by Marie Janicek (BC ’12), both choreographer and lead dancer in Orchesis’ latest production, the show is about reclaiming a “survival instinct” that civilization has denied. Ultimately, she says, to uncover our animal consciousness is empowering– it allows us to tap a latent ability to be “fully present” and embodied. It’s a heady undertaking, but rest assured the event is not as taxing as it may sound. Go!

The theme is an appropriate one to showcase the physical and theatrical talent of this dance troupe. The challenge to “reconnect with [their] inherent animalism” is well articulated by a choreography that ranges from the purposeful march of automatons to fits of halting convulsions that are tiring even to watch. Bwog wondered why dancers were dressed in a bold palette of Lycra that seemed anything but earthly until it realized that the unitards were probably protective: there’s a lot of sliding, falling and jumping going on and we can’t imagine that the floor of the Black Box is a friend to kneecaps. The range of character in the ensemble’s movements is reason enough to attend Unearthed. To watch the cast shift in and out of their feral instinct, especially in ensemble numbers toward the beginning of the show like “The Air,” was worth the price of the ticket ($5 at the TIC!).

The most memorable moments come at an especially despairing section of the show’s narrative arc. Those who attended MetemORCHESIS in November may remember “The Butcher;” Bwog previously described this piece as “creepy,” and will stick to this claim. It’s a number in which one dancer’s belabored slow-motion progression across the floor competes for the stage with a rotating band of vigorous leapers, kickers and spinners. Well, “The Butcher” is back to great fanfare, and brought its creepy friends this time, too. The piece preludes an especially grim sequence of dances, including the unforgettable “Lux Aeterna.” It’s a wrenching duet performed by Janicek and Sarah Friedman (BC ’15)– it suffices to say that it wears the recognizable Requiem for a Dream theme quite well.

Janicek’s solo “Di Do” that precedes the finale is a testament to her strengths as both performer and choreographer. Her ability to sustain the mood of a piece throughout some seriously tiresome-looking dance moves deserves a great big hat-tip. Furthermore, it is clear that she was able to impress her vision on the rest of the cast– a lucid “animalism” is present throughout, and the result is haunting. Especially memorable were the solos of Liana Gergely (BC ‘14), Jacklyn Hoffman (CC ‘14), and Jenna Nugent (BC ‘12) in “Feral.” The show ends in smiles, whoops, claps, and Florence and the Machine: a conspicuous epilogue against a dark and spooky backdrop. But the good cheer was not unwarranted: rather, the ensemble rightfully celebrates a job well done.