ISO, the deliciously eccentric dance company from New England, wowed the Columbia Festival of the Arts' audience at Wilde Lake High School Saturday night with its high-energy performance and off-center program.
ISO defies stylistic description. Its dances take equal parts Pilobolus and Alwin Nikolais and are vigorously mixed with a classic show-biz attitude and terrific comedic timing.
ISO's dances are co-choreographed by its performers. This allows the voices of the performers to be heard quite distinctly and provides a range of viewpoints.
Indeed, each of the eight works shown seemed to point in a different direction. The romantic duets, "DNA" and "Scare Myself," were in sharp contrast to the MTV look of the opening work "Psycho-Killer" or the sculpture-come-to-life aspects of "Helter Skelter" and "Linguini Arms." The pure wackiness of "Captain Tenacity" was juxtaposed with the eerie beauty of "Night Thoughts" and the wry humor of "Foreign Tails."
While each dance was enjoyable and expertly performed, one of the more successful works was "Foreign Tails," a dance with all the charm and whimsy of a child's escape into the world of make-believe. Danced by ISO members Ashley Roland, Jamey Hampton, Morleigh Steinberg and Jack Gallagher, this work to the music of Debussy, Ravel and Keith Jarrett places the dancers squarely in a "Fantasia" atmosphere. The two women dressed in white hoop skirts undergo a series of changes -- like caterpillars to butterflies, they metamorphose into flowers, into bells and back into women. Things are not all that they seem here, and "Foreign Tales" delighted the audience with its ever-changing sensibilities.
"DNA," performed by Ms. Roland and Mr. Gallagher, was a
nostalgic tour of '40s dance styles combined with the fresh and sassy personalities of the performers. What kept this number from being just another trip down memory lane was the way Ms. Roland and her partner played up to each other and the audience as they mugged and hammed their way through the typical boy-girl episodes to the music of the Hi-Lo's.
"Linguini Arms" may be an unusual title, but it certainly describes the action of this quirky duet performed by Ms. Steinberg and Mr. Hampton. Dressed from head to toe in white Lycra with extra fabric that stretched from each hand to foot, the dancers indeed had appendages that could wave like linguini in the wind.
With ISO's eclectic nature and high energy, it's no wonder the audience stood and cheered for an encore. ISO didn't disappoint them.