A Different Drum is nothing if not ever-consistent with its mission statement: “sharing as wide a variety of dance styles as possible, both with our audiences and each other.” This time around, ADD has assembled an enterprising 18 piece Spring Performance which promises to leave no voice in its 31 member company unheard.
A Different Drum, a six year-old troupe of choreographers and dancers, has put together a program this spring that is a bit touch and go. The performance ticks off over two hours on the clock, a length that is demanding on the resources of any company. However, ADD for the most part avoids the pitfalls of a lengthy repertoire by arranging its program like a gourmet tasting menu (which, in this case, forms an 18 course meal).
The program mixes large company numbers with solos, and up-tempo beats with classical ballads. Though the night as a whole is admittedly heavy on modern dance, various pieces manage to incorporate styles as diverse as ballet, tango, kung-fu, and even Irish step dancing. When it’s good, it’s great. Even the numbers that fall short of memorability are praiseworthy in maintaining the momentum of the evening.
Michael Apuzzo’s ’05 “Entanglement” is one of the highlights of the show. Apuzzo, though not the only dancer to use a narrative style of choreography, sets his two-part story first to the Moulin Rouge version of Roxanne and then to Enrique Englasias’ Escape. He introduces the three “protagonists” in pools of light before music cues in, creating a sense of dramatic anticipation. Apuzzo then uses an energetic combination of tango, kung-fu, and break dancing to tell the story of two men battling over a girl who is clad in a sequined-skirt.
Apuzzo, who performs in his own number, is a powerful and fluid dancer. He choreographs in a way that sensibly accommodates the various strengths and ability levels of his dancers. The piece as a whole stands out not only because of its creative cross-disciplinary elements, but also the manageability of the story.
Though the majority of the show feels serious and is a bit melancholy, Erik A. Johnson’s ’02 “The Choice is Yours: Shaws Supermarket” proves that ADD is a company that finds an exception to every rule. Though a hip-hop influence is definitely at work in Johnson’s choreography to The Real Slim Shady, at times this operates with the help of little formal “dance.” The number features a cast of two “girls,” two “boys,” two lumberjacks, a tree, the Bible’s Abraham, and Johnson himself.
Johnson is energetic, fearless, and always humorous in his rhythmic flailing to the beat of Eminem. His piece at once deals with sex, sin, destruction, creation, religion, and consumerism — and all in a tongue-in-cheek, smart alec fashion. Johnson’s eye catching spectacle is notable for its boldness and originality, and his own ability to remain energetic without seeming jittery.
Dance companies are notoriously only as strong as their weakest member, and maintaining and showcasing a 31 member company is no small feat. Too often large undertakings such as these collapse into fragmented “diva fights,” wherein each member struggles for the spotlight and ultimately weakens the performance as a whole. The extent to which ADD defeats this tendency is perhaps best displayed in “Here’s a Thing (II),” the company’s second guitar and dance improvisation piece of the school year. This type of improvisation poses the ultimate risk of intra-company competition. Yet it is in this piece that ADD’s overall dynamic best comes through. The seven dancers and the sole guitarist lend each other support and space, anticipating the fellow dancer’s movements with remarkable precision. It is here that ADD’s enthusiasm and love for dance truly shines through.