A very interesting small company from Vancouver, Canada, made its American Dance Festival debut June 15. The 605 Collective will repeat its fierce and funny one-hour program, Audible, again tonight in Reynolds Theater at Duke. It is fascinating to see this group immediately following Shen Wei.
Shen Wei is an artist with a powerful individual vision, which he refines and calibrates to the micro-millimeter. His dancers are marvelous, but you always know they carry out his ideas–they are his paint. But a collective does things very differently, and it shows in the robust individuality of the dancers. It’s paradoxical: As a collective, they make group decisions, but each dancer has an autonomy–a will, a capacity to choose and act–that dancers serving another’s vision do not.
It is particularly piquant to observe this contrast between The 605 Collective and Shen Wei Dance Arts when, by coincidence or good management on the part of ADF Director Jodee Nimerichter, the two deal with very similar material. Contemporary urban life, with its isolation and crowding, its deepening involvement with mediated communication and manipulation; and the overriding human need to connect somehow, somewhere, along the spectrum between aggression and love, are themes in both The 605 Collective’s Audible and Shen Wei’s Collective Measures.
Audible opens with a body pitching through space and landing noisily mid-stage. It is followed by four more bodies, each arriving in a similar manner. Standing, under grim lighting by Jason Dubois, they reveal themselves to be taut 20-somethings in drab grey suits. Soon enough they whip out imaginary cell phones. Thus begins an explosive dance of modernity that, as you might guess, is not plotted to the millimeter. So while they act out the bizarre near-misses and rough encounters of a fractured society, the dancers must in fact be tightly connected mentally so as not to hurt each other physically.
Some of the segments extended just beyond the edge of my attention span, but each one is very incisive, and they fit together beautifully into a highly dynamic whole. There’s a dance about following (as in social media) that super smart and mordantly humorous. And once the dancers strip off their suit coats and have more freedom to move, you realize they have got MOVES. One aggressive section in which they all wear red wrestlers’ ear protection will surely raise your heart rate.
The very composition of The 605 Collective seems to express the group’s philosophy. The dancers come from quite different movement backgrounds, which they purposefully meld. They dance about distancing because they believe in connection. In fact, before their program description of their work, they inserted a quote from Jyri Engestrom: “Being hyper-connected will become a precondition for citizenship.”