InHale Performance Series Review

An InHale to leave you breathless

Melissa Strong

August 26, 2018

The intimate setting at the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) InHale Performance Series is one of my favorite ways to see dance: up close and personal, with the chance to talk to artists after the show.

A welcome return of 'Three Women, Three Bowls.' (Photo by Julieanne Harris Photography.)

This KYL/D series has featured a diverse range of more than 800 artists. This breadth of experience and style makes InHale such an interesting series. The 37th InHale event, curated by Jessica Warchal-King, introduced audiences to new performers and choreographers alongside familiar faces. It was an exciting program with particularly strong opening and closing dances, and some surprises along the way.

“Evolving” and “Untamed”

The first dance was “Evolving,” choreographed and performed by Tingting Zhou with Ziyao Yu, Nadia Kharallah, and Yuanhao Zhang. Industrial music by Steve Reich set the tone for the dance’s exploration of the connections and boundaries between human and machine. Movement portrayed and blurred those intersections as dancers fluttered their arms, twitched their necks, and moved like automatons, then sank to the floor in fetal positions. Zhou’s arrangement of bodies in the space reinforced these images: Dancers moved as a unit, like gears in a machine. While Kharallah’s extreme backbends stood out, all performers were strong in this demanding, energetic piece.

Dancer/choreographer Asya Zlatina performed next, in her solo “Untamed.” I had seen this piece once before, performed by Ashley Searles, but Zlatina’s interpretation was distinct. “Untamed” portrays feminine grace and strength, and Searles’s version emphasized the latter while Zlatina embodied more balance between the two. Graceful turns, pirouettes, and leaps offset athletic flexing and chest-thumping, suggesting a fierce ballerina.

Comedy and colors

I had also previously seen Olivia Wood’s performance of Anne-Marie Mulgrew’s comic “Sad Cat,” and it was just as funny the second time. A robotic voice reads a cat’s diary entries about an evil plant and litterbox drama, which Wood acts out to hilarious results. During InHale’s second act, Wood joined with Kate Lombardi and Leslie Ann Pike to reprise “Three Women, Three Bowls,” which they recently performed in Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Company’s delightful June concert. This lovely piece suggests serving, offering, and adoring, as women in white dresses move with pink bowls.

Five dancers in long, flowing skirts of various colors performed Natalie Flynn’s “Make It Out Alive,” incorporated the lovely costumes into the movement, holding the skirts in their hands and sending the fabric flying with their kicks. It was strong dancing, but less memorable than the more provocative and imaginative pieces in the showcase. Similarly, Michelle Slavik’s commanding solo, “New Disposition,” was well-executed, but lacked the clarity of message and vision I saw in other dances. Nevertheless, there were several visually interesting movements, such as when Slavik reached a hand to the hair piled on her head and used the topknot to turn her body.

Bodies as instruments

In Katelyn Halpern’s “Three Strikes/I Win,” the knee pads Charly Santagado and Diana Uribe wore reflected the dance’s qualities of competition and athleticism. The duo slapped hands like teammates and linked bodies like wrestlers, and then one dancer seemed to best the other.

“Head vs. Heart,” created and performed by Matthew Zimmerman, captured a moving battle between thinking and feeling, authenticity and expectations. Solo dances can be less engaging beside pieces that fill the stage with bodies, but Zimmerman’s expertly danced piece was one of the evening’s highlights. Ballet steps merged with movement evoking yoga poses to reflect conflict and collision, as when Zimmerman’s arabesque melted into a plank that he flipped into a reaching bend some yogis know as “wild thing.”  

Zimmerman reminded me that dancers’ bodies are their instruments. His was so beautifully played that it even incorporated facial expressions. Zimmerman is a dancer on the rise: he recently signed a contract with West Chester’s Brandywine Ballet.

Fresh translations

The series included two pieces by Mignolo Dance, one of which ended the program. Along with Zimmerman’s solo, these were the night’s most arresting and appealing dances. The first, “Translation Study No. 1,” was created and performed by sisters Charly and Eriel Santagado, using words and sounds in unfamiliar languages twisted into something resembling music. The Santagado sisters performed a kinetic interpretation of remixed language and sound, syncing their head rolls, hip shakes, and hand gestures to percussive utterings. 

“Translation Study No. 2,” however, was an entirely different take on translation: in this final dance of the program, Charly Santagado interpreted familiar classical music—Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony—into contemporary choreography. Santagado and six other dancers, wearing black blazers over black leggings, translated musical notes into movement in a variety of modes, from lunges and whirling arms to chaîné turns and grand jetés. Towards the end, a sequence of arm movements evoked a conductor leading an orchestra.

The varied program let viewers to immerse themselves in an incubator of dance bubbling with fresh ideas, solid talent, and interesting work from both established and up-and-coming artists — leaving audiences hungry for the next InHale event, on October 12.