Dancers debut powerful new work

Anne Herman
Marc Lester, courtesy Alaska Dance Theatre

In the end, it's all about relationships: how we gather and part from one another, how we listen to, love, play with and anger each other.

Alaska Dance Theatre's "Intersections" concert was one man's revelations of the push and pull of our interactions, the relations we have as men, women, and human beings.

Choreographer Gabriel Otevrel presented two long works for eight dancers at the Discovery Theater on Friday evening. "The Bench" and "woMEN Are Less Alone, When Together" were packed with movements, so much so that it was hard to take a breath from the actions onstage. Stark, dramatic lighting in both dances, designed by Otevrel and Fred Sager, became the ninth performer, a presence that cut the dancers apart, rained down on them or drew them together.

"The Bench" seemed to look at people's romantic or sexual relationships. The sounds of crickets in the night opened the work as a single man sat in a pool of light. The light came up and he was joined by a woman in a yellow dress. These two -- Bryan Ketron and Sarah Grunwaldt -- would capture the audience throughout the evening, whether together or apart.

Grunwaldt and Ketron danced with a sense of gravitas in "The Bench," each gesture measured with seriousness. They seemed to move through an invisible liquid that clarified each action while never impeding its flow.

"The Bench" stage set actually was a series of benches that acted as doors, walls and a tunnel as well as places to sit on and jump off. The dancers often shifted them around and they became part of the general dance flow.

The work was filled with deep lunges and knee bends, as if the dancers needed to hug the ground while they interacted with each other. Arms wound around the dancers' heads, clasped hands reached out and feet flexed as they extended in space.

Large movement sequences were repeated throughout the dance, with subtle differences in shading, musical accompaniment or emotional texturing. This gave the piece a spiral feeling that wound from start to finish, creating a circle of feeling and movement.

"woMEN are Less Alone, When Together" had a more classic feel to it, with a grace and balletic sense that morphed into more aggressive action toward the end of the dance. Here the relationships were less sexual and often the four women moved as a counterbalance to the men.

Echoing wind seemed to roll off angled lights that cut the space into high and low sections. Dancers entered and exited on their hands and knees, as if pressed down by the lights or as if they were animals. Wariness crept into their actions until they rose and identified each other as human.

The actual push and pull of human connections was evident in much of the dance as performers would fling their arms out to throw others off them or draw them in. Dancers would roll on the floor in one direction and then reverse like waves flowing toward and away from the shore.

Ketron and Grunwaldt were magnetic in this dance, every action meant to attract or repel. Ketron's back and neck would curve over another dancer as if to engulf her while Grunwaldt's hands and legs pushed at the space to split it in half.

ADT's "Intersections" concert was a powerful evening. Otevrel's works were intense, and the strength and clarity of the eight performers made them luminescent and human.

Anne Herman holds a master's degree in dance and has been a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Daily News correspondent