Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, New York, NY; December 4, 2014
Trainor Dance, a skilled company of nine stunning dancers directed by Caitlin Trainor, fuses a classical sensibility with a contemporary feel. Trainor takes her extensive and varied performance career (she performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet but also with modern choreographers such as Sean Curran) and blends her influences seamlessly into works of pure dance without artifice, affectation or contrived attempts to impress.
The first piece of the evening, “Courante”, opens with a quirky soundscape by Caroline Shaw. Audible exhalations and rhythmic instrumental pulses reflect in the seven dancers’ bodies, almost like an odd, stilted conversation. Each exhale and pulse causes them to shift and thrust a body part in percussive, animalistic gestures. They remind me of exotic birds, the score a rainforest. As the music evolves into smoother, more operatic vocals, the dancers transition smoothly into exuberant, full bodied movements, skittering and jumping across the stage, a crooked wrist or thrusting arm keeping the bird-like quality present.
A courante is a type of dance from the late Renaissance and Baroque era, and the word literally means running. In the later Renaissance, it was danced with fast running and jumping steps, and Trainor’s version is alive with petite allegro, traveling jumps, and quick intricate steps that take the dancers on adventurous pathways across the stage. It is a feast for the eyes, dancers passing in and out of each other, exiting and entering, until the piece builds to a crescendo and suddenly all seven enter the space at once, perform seven different big jumps, and collapse to the floor as the lights black out.
In contrast to the more classical vocabulary of “Courante”, Trainor’s solo “Self Portrait, Reflected” uses a more contemporary lexicon. Still very full-bodied and ‘dancey,’ it builds from subtle to grand, soft to hard. Fascinated by Trainor’s physicality- a tall woman with an intense focus not only in her face but in every movement she makes- I failed to recognize at first that the black and white photos of her dancing being projected on the back wall- photos taken by the renowned dance photographer Paul B. Goode- reflect in her solo. Trainor’s movements bring her still photos to life, and slowly I began to notice that as an image appears on the wall, she would move through that same shape moments later, like moving through a memory. The solo itself reminds me of remembering, her introspective gaze not out with the audience but focused within, soft. I was struck by the power of her gestures and movements; no matter how fast or percussively she moves the audience does not hear a sound. As grounded as she clearly is to execute off-balance, full bodied, quick movements, she seems to float and use the floor like a trampoline or cloud.
Closing the evening, “Faux Pas”, a lively dance for seven dancers and seven gorgeous, flowing, jewel-toned skirts, showcases Trainor’s innate musicality and musical affinity. As a dancer watching her dances, I want to get up and dance along! She phrases the music in pleasing and satisfying ways, making it come alive visually so that the viewer’s senses are awake, alive and in communion.
Full of intricate allegro work, lush extensions, joyful jumps and serene suspensions, “Faux Pas” is a kaleidoscope of color, movement and sound. The large skirts, as fluid and shimmery as water, serve both as costumes and partners for the dancers, and they use them sometimes like bullfighters would use their capes, sometimes in cloaking gestures reminiscent of Martha Graham’s “Lamentation”, and sometimes tucked inside themselves to make genie-looking shorts. The fabric is almost as fascinating to watch as the dancers, who execute Trainor’s choreography with precision, grace, impeccability and verve.
Trainor’s dances are pure dance for dance’s sake, joyous in their fluidity, charm and crystal clear movement intention. I look forward to enjoying more of her work in the future.