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In the Balance 

Ormao shows off its diversity at FAC

In the teetering and weighty uncertainty of the world today, what better art form to bring balance and levity than dance? Fortunately for the world and local dance lovers alike, this weekend the Ormao Dance Company will present It Takes Five, a diverse lineup of pieces (with six premieres) by guest choreographers Gail Gustafson and Peter Strand, as well as dance company choreographers Jan Johnson, Tiffany Tinsley, Amanda Larsen and Debra Mercer.

"The show embraces all things, and includes a nice mixed repertoire evening with highs, lows, contemporary pieces, funny pieces, and really allows the audience to go through a gamut of emotions," said Jan Johnson, artistic director of the Ormao Dance Company.

Among the many performances to be debuted, this weekend's dance showcase features the premiere of Gail Gustafson's "Dance #33 a, b, c" -- a work inspired by Pina Bausch's celebrated 1983 work "Carnations" -- that has the dancers dancing with 60 toilet plungers.

"It's not about steps or about expressing a piece of music," said Gustafson. "Rather, the music is there to express a mood." The piece is centered around dancer Kira Robbins, who Gustafson chose because she has the most "freshness or open desire to try new things." While the work's unconventional approach to choreography may seem challenging to those unfamiliar with modern dance, Gustafson encourages everyone to take away their own meaning, and to experience her tradition of dance by just "being where you are and being present."

Also premiering, Amanda Larsen's "The Art of Resignation" goes beyond just being where you are and explores the deeper issue of being stuck, literally. Larsen looks at what happens when you can't move off center as the dancers find themselves entangled with all variety of chairs and stools.

Peter Strand and Debra Mercer perform a dramatic new pas de deux to Albinoni's "Adagio." The two become moving sculptures, melding into statuesque shapes like malleable metal. Strand also performs "Disphoria," a "solo en pointe" -- something highly unusual for male dancers -- that's set to the music of Pink Floyd.

Company member Tiffany Tinsley premieres her new quartet "Aria" with an original piano score composed specifically for her movements. "Tiffany generated her movement phrases on video and sent them to a composer out of state," said Jan Johnson. "The process is what's unique about the piece."

Jan Johnson's new comedic piece, "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride" "pokes fun at many of the traditions of weddings," said Johnson. "The idea stemmed from a friend of mine who's been to 25 weddings but isn't married. So I just thought I'd play with that. And it was a good excuse to dance to Etta James!" Choreographed to seven excerpts of popular music including "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Addicted to Love" and "The Thrill Is Gone," the dance leads the audience through the ups and downs of the clichs of engagement and a plethora of nosegays.

The two previously performed pieces include Madelyne Camera's "Internal Memoirs" and Erica Wilson's "Fight Water Within." Camera's duet features Amy Olsen and Mary Ripper Baker as two dancers who come from entirely different dance backgrounds, but must get used to each other's body composition as they interact and connect internally. Ballet and modern join and become one in this contact piece.

Wilson's "Fight Water Within," on the other hand, stands in stark visual contrast to Camera's ethereal choreography, using combative, aggressive movements that reflect more of the tension and internal conflict of the world today.

Like all Ormao shows, this one has something for everyone. Get off the couch, turn off CNN, and find some equilibrium for an evening.

--Jennifer Phelps Smalley

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