Glassy moves 

Dale Chihuly fires up Ormaos Elemental Alchemy

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Imagine a deep sea of floating colors eddying and spiraling, tugged by invisible tides, pulsating together and erupting apart, subtly contained while leaning toward absolute abandon.

This sensual dreamscape is supplied by five supple sylphs in "From Fire," choreographed by Colorado Springs' own modern dance leader Janet Johnson and premiering this weekend as part of Ormao Dance Company's Elemental Alchemy at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

Inspired by Dale Chihuly's "lush images" of fluidity and light, the performances represent different series in the artist's collection -- Fiori, Macchia, Persian, Ikebana and Venetian -- as an organic whole, made larger by each dancer's perfect individuality. Johnson's formal education in interior design informs the work with an understanding of inner space and flow of form.

Adorned in luminous, festively colored fabrics hand-crafted by costume designer Susi Hubbs, the dancers (Sara Clifton, Ila Conoley, Amanda Larsen, Michelle McGregor and Tiffany Tinsley Weeks) demonstrate a fertile flux of elements and nesting female forms in metamorphosis toward what art critic Ron Glowen calls "luxuriant growths."

The idea to base an original dance on Chihuly's imaginative work -- some of which is showing at the Fine Arts Center through August 14 -- came from Sandy Bray, FAC's director of performing arts, who has added Ormao to the museum's 2005 Presenters' Series.

"Jan Johnson sees the vitality and passion of Chihuly's art and internalizes it, letting her create with that passion," says Bray. "Art begets art. Making art possible and accessible are common passions that we share, and this kind of unity not only helps us but the entire community."

The program includes gems like the satisfyingly quirky "Marked Tree" by Erica Wilson Perkins, who innovatively employs large surgical tubing to restrain, capture and propel dancers (highlighted by Kira Robbins, with her incredible balance and frenetic energy). "Moondance" is a radiantly serene solo created by Gail Gilbert for veteran Colorado College dance teacher and Ormao Ballet Mistress Debra Mercer. Mercer's lithe, rounded movements, Bach's ethereal music and Kevin Shea's lighting enchant and soothe.

"Dynamic Duo," choreographed and performed by Tinsley Weeks and Conoley, will make even dance detractors grin with its suggestion of slumber-party giddiness, mixing it up to the crooning of Wayne Newton and Roy Orbison.

Social commentary bubbles up in Mary Ripper Baker's "Upwardly Mobile," with its ladder-climbing dancers in aggressive red dress, attitudes and movements. The "method is the message" in dancer Peter Strand's visionary work, "Soul and Transcendence," which reveals a balance of spiritual sensitivity and earthy athleticism. Poesy Knight's intriguing "Conversations" plays with "the complex and dynamic relationship between two people," to the soundtrack of whispered pillow talk.

Ormao shows no intention of resting its gutsy hold on innovative and soulful dance, despite tepid arts funding. Johnson, a founder, director, choreographer, teacher and dancer, has used her own vacation savings to subsidize the dance center she established in 1990. With the grant-writing assistance of a business manager, she hopes to take Ormao on the road and breathe her fire of inspiration throughout rural Colorado.

"The language of modern dance is more accessible than most people realize. There's nothing like its 'wow' factor -- the real and immediate experience of hearing the dancers' breathing and feeling the wind of their movement in an intimate, live setting."

-- Rebekah Shardy


Elemental Alchemy

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Saturday, June 4, 8 p.m.

Sunday, June 5, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $13 FAC member advance/$15 non-member advance/$17 at door; call 634-5583.


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