Mac & Co. under the creative direction of Micaela Church and Li Pei Khoo, premiered “1.0” at Third Street Theater in Downtown Phoenix. The evening contained 11 dance pieces, a video and live music. The works presented were a mixture of solos, duets and ensemble pieces. “1.0” exhibited an eclectic variety of movement styles as each piece was diversely different from the last. Church and Khoo play with humor and musicality to bring the audience on an amusing and charming journey.
“Once, There Was…” choreographed by Church with music composed by Jeffrey Ouper, demonstrated the company’s ability to connect with music through dynamics, facial expression and cadence. This piece depicted three different scenes of fairy tales; the first section refers to the story of Cinderella. The dancers floated onto the stage in airy blue dresses coupled with balletic movement and lovely music. In an instant, the piece goes from fine-looking to grotesque when the clock strikes midnight (which is played by a toy piano).
This change in music begins the second movement referring to Snow White and the famous Mirror scene. Performers grab at their faces, movement becomes bound, dreary, and heavy; a significant and noticeable contrast to the first section. This surreal and weighted movement progresses into violent and off-kilter thrashing to signify the creation of the poisoned apple. The final movement, is in reference to the magic and make-believe that is found throughout fairy tales, the piece is recovered into a calming, whimsical feeling that is matched with athletic, full-body phrases.
Another stand out piece was “Hungry Hungry” choreographed and performed by Church and dancers. Of all the pieces in the show, this one was the most “polished” and put-together. Inspired by the board game “Hungry, Hungry, Hippos”, the dancers chomped, slid and wrestled their way across the stage in an attempt to “eat” the white marbles. Throughout the piece, each dancer embodied their own distinct personality that was revealed through theme and reprise. The piece finished with an exciting and eccentric finale of white marbles being thrown onto the stage which caused the audience to burst out into laughter.
An aspect of the show that I appreciate was the integration of other art forms such as video and live music. “Small Rebellions” directed by Martha Patricia Hernandez, was a witty and clever film about origami cranes making their big escape into the “real world”. This film demands your attention as it was dialogue free and relies on the physical performance of its ensemble cast of “origami clans” and the expressive music that accompanies the film throughout.
The night also involved two solo performances by musicians, Lucille Berk (clarinet) and Jeffrey Ouper (alto recorder). These musical interludes were a good way to split up the dance pieces and made the evening feel like a variety show.
Mac & Co has a clear sense of artistic identity that seems to connect with the audience through movement, musicality and humor. Conversely, I did feel the technical level of the dancers varied so drastically that it was distracting at times. Some of the performers had a powerful stage presence while others displayed a much weaker existence, they lacked clarity and self-assurance in their performance.
Subsequently, Mac & Co is a new company and I do recognize potential to build upon these shortcomings. Regardless, I am excited for the future of this company and am thrilled to have such a fun, light-hearted group emerging on the Phoenix dance scene. Mac & Co has upcoming performances scheduled throughout the Valley and they are a must see!