Megan Browne Helm, KCMetropolis.org
"Baroque in Motion," the world premiere collaboration of the Bach Aria Soloists and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, fused sound to skin. Allowing the music to inform every aspect of the dance, from the individual motions to the overall design, choreographer Jennifer Owen elegantly interpreted every note.
Baroque music was made for dancing. Inspired by the court dances of the time -- the minuet, gigue, hornpipe and others -- composers filled their music with movement. "Baroque in Motion," the world premiere collaboration of the Bach Aria Soloists and the Owen/Cox Dance Group, fused sound to skin. Allowing the music to inform every aspect of the dance, from the individual motions to the overall design, choreographer Jennifer Owen elegantly interpreted every note.
The program began with Elizabeth Suh-Lane, the director and violinist of the Bach Aria Soloists, playing the gossamer Sonata for Violin in D. Op. 9, No. 3, by J. M. LeClair. Harpsichordist Elisa Bickers supported the melody with a delicate touch. Together their light dexterity produced immaculate trills and runs. It was the perfect overture for the evening.
This piece was followed by "Vorrei dire un non so che" by Agostino Steffani, featuring soprano Rebecca Lloyd and tenor David Adams. It was a pleasure to hear their voices blend in this lesser known Baroque duet. Restrained and pure, they didn't allow vibrato to interfere with their tone. The arching, overlapping melody soared and their Italian diction was perfect. Unfortunately, the meaning of the text was overlooked, as the singers focused on their notes and not the burning passion they were supposed to be feeling for each other.
After much anticipation, the dancers took the stage: three pairs in three simultaneous pas de deux, tastefully adorned in hues of gray, burgundy and blue. Blending modern and classical dance elements, their bodies interpreted every lyrical nuance of the Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello, a refreshing piece of early modern music pared down its basic melodic form. The dancers brought it to life as if they were swimming in air. Suh Lane and cellist Paula Kosower infused the piece with a flowing energy that seemed to lift the dancers right off the ground.
Other highlights included a poignant dance solo by Jennifer Owen to "Dido's Lament" by Henry Purcell, sung by Rebecca Lloyd; the Bach Cello Suite No. 2 in C-major, BWV 1009, featuring Paula Kosower; and a charming bel canto interpretation of "Care selve, aure grate" from the Cantata for Soprano and Basso Continuo, HWV 88, by G.F. Handel.
The Sonata No. 6 for Violin and Klavier in G-major, BWV 1019, by J. S. Bach capped off the evening, allowing each dancer to shine. This well-designed composition included motives that repeated, sensuous duets and playful chases. Muscular and energetic, the performers pulled out the stops.
The dancers in this group were well paired and highly responsive. They seemed to sing with their bodies and exuded ensemble joy. These dancers are among the best in our local field. By taking risks and extending themselves collaboratively, the Owen/Cox Dance group is able to create performances that enrich and give pleasure.
Watching music being expressed through flesh and blood is mesmerizing, and viewers often long for visual stimulation at concerts. Interpreting music through the body is a natural solution, yet dancers are often reluctant to allow the music to dictate their actions. A partnership is more desirable. Baroque in Motion demonstrated the beautiful pairing of these highly compatible art forms.