There is treasure to be found in Oak Park at 605 Lake St. Since 1983, MOMENTA, Oak Park's premier performing dance troupe, has been presenting high quality dance concerts each spring and fall. Their current spring concert, "New Dances?#34;A Second Generation" is no exception?#34;an evening of fresh, committed dancers presenting powerful works with strength, humor, and talent.
And youth. As the title implies, Stephanie Clemens' younger students had ample opportunity to perform with their older counterparts. Judging by the results, her company is blessed with promise.
The concert began ambitiously, with ballet master Valery Dolgallo's "Seven Beauties," the tale of seven sculpted images of exotic women conjured by an old hermit. Exceptional performances by the high-flying Jacob Brooks as The Shah, Julia Haptonstahl as The Iberian Beauty, and Erika Farkvam as The Persian Beauty bring professionalism to the large and mostly younger cast. The piece is performed before an impressive tapestry-like backdrop designed by Mike Dutka and Larry Ippel.
In "The Demon King," Clemens' choreography interprets Schubert's setting of Goethe's "Erlkonig," a haunting poem about the horror of a father (Larry Ippel) who loses his young son (Tommy Jackson) to the seductions of death. Daniel Deziel, as the Demon King, and Ippel juggle death's daughter (Jessica Prost) and Jackson, their white costumes chillingly juxtaposed against Deziel's dark robes. The piece relies on numerous transfers (which need smoother coordination) of children back and forth between the adults, but the highlight of the piece is the live musical accompaniment, provided by pianist Stuart Leitch and vocalist Paul Geiger.
Many of MOMENTA'S current professional dancers and choreographers began as students. The alums, many of whom have worked or are working in the professional world of dance, are generous about returning to help the resident dancers.
As the piece "Soeur" illustrates, this arrangement can produce beautiful results. Sixteen-year-old Enza DePalma as the elder sister dances with fifth-grader Emily Rose Cannon, conveying a strong sense of joy and playfulness through the older sister's mentoring relationship and the younger sister's admiration.
Two vastly different dances, "Crying Waters," choreographed by Cora D. Mitchell, and "Fields of Eternal Peace," choreographed by Jennifer Sprowl, are dedicated to the victims of the December 2004 tsunami. Sandra Kaufmann, Mary Kelly Kren and Gina Sigismondi dance the powerful "Crying Waters" in costumes suggesting street clothes or vacation wear. The dancers dig frantically at the stage floor, sway underwater, and desperately grab one another as the surge pulls them out to sea. "Fields of Eternal Peace" is based on the work "Dance of The Blessed Spirits" by modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan. It's more ethereal, putting a dreamlike heavenly face on the disaster.
Following the first of two intermissions, five dancers, two of them in wheelchairs (though not always confined to them) performed "Interplay," choreographed by Ginger Lane, a wheelchair dancer herself. Kris Lenzo, performing in his fourth season with MOMENTA, and Alana Wallace, a guest artist who has performed with Baryshnikov's White Oak Project, use their chairs to spin, race and twirl, sometimes carrying the non-chair dancers in their laps and on their backs. The integration of wheelchairs is surprisingly effective, and the lighting on the rotating spokes provides a striking visual.
"The Seed," a newly choreographed piece by Oak Parker Kaufmann, recalls the work of Martha Graham (Kaufmann danced with Graham's company in New York for 10 years) and tells the myth of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, whose descent to the Lord of the Underworld for half the year creates winter in the world above. The costumes, designed by Kaufmann, mix subtle shades of spring green with the mother's muddied brown. Mitchell, as the mother, faces off with Solomon Dumas, who plays the Lord of the Underworld, and fiercely defends her daughter from capture. Merril Doty, as Persephone, and Dumas dance into tormented embrace.
"For Those Who Cannot Speak" added words and humor to the evening's offerings, and "Audition Suite," a series of two-minute individual dances, gave Danielle Meier, DePalma, Aidan Feldman and Farkvam, among others, a chance to show off their promising ability.
The evening closes in fine but decidedly deciduous form with "El Bosque" (The Forest), choreographed by Alberto Arias, formerly with Hubbard Street and now ballet master for Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. The piece is a large group work based on sensuous Latin rhythms and features a strong solo by Sarita Smith Childs. It opens with the entire ensemble advancing on the audience with undulating hips and arms?#34;a giant, pulsating beast made up of a dozen dancers.
If you're a fan of modern dance and ballet, this show is consistently entertaining throughout its three-hour span. If you're merely curious about the local dance scene, this is a great way to get acquainted.
MOMENTA is trying to raise funds for new floors and seating in their aging theater (the old Bishop Quarter gym). They also could use a new sound system, and more generous wing space. In other words, this "hidden" jewel is worthy of a proper setting.
Evening performances continue this Saturday, March 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $5 for students. The entrance is at the back of the building at 605 Lake St. and is accessible to persons with disabilities. Call 848-2329 for more information.