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By Chelsey Philpot

Even under the exposing bright lights of the Concord Academy Performing Arts Center Armitage Gone! Dance managed to conceal the efforts of their movements. On Thursday, July 9th, despite the intimacy of the space, a full house with fellow dancers and choreographers in attendance, and the pressures of being the opening performance for Summer Stage Dance at Concord Academy's thirteenth season, Armitage Gone! Dance moved as if they were the only ones in the room. This New York City-based modern dance company is powerful yet lyrical, angry yet funny, and absolutely enthralling.

The evening was short: three pieces, the oldest one choreographed in 1985 and the newest one in 2009. The first number, "Ligeti Essays," displayed the best of choreographer Karole Armitage's ability to play on expectations of classical ballet movements. She had her female dancers, clad in black leotards, spin beautifully and then fall into their partners as if the music was making them melt. When the music, written by the late composer György Ligeti, erupted so did the dancers. So closely did the dancers' movements reflect the music that it was impossible to separate them, as if the choreography and the chords were simultaneously created.

However, as captivating as the first piece was, the second performance, "The Watteau Duets," was as haunting as a painful memory. Performed by the beautiful Megumi Eda—who has been with the company for five years—and first year dancer Luke Manley, this duet was a dark battle of the sexes and a striking examination of love and its consequences. The piece began with Eda dressed in a black body suit and toe shoes and Manley also clad in black. When she raised her perfectly pointed foot it was threatening and when he lifted her by the waist it was angry and controlling.

As the couple moved through elements of love (anger, lust, sadness, acceptance), both dancers changed her shoes and their costumes to reflect the mood. Eda danced in black high heels with the same grace and strength she had in toe shoes and Manley danced in bare feet as if he had springs beneath him. All the while the two dancers battled downstage, musicians Matt Mottel and Kevin Shea adding an element of humor upstage. As the dancers drifted sensuously together or fought to separate their entwined limbs, the suit-clad musicians pounded on a keyboard, balanced on the drum set, or even threw drum sticks at each other.

The evening ended with a contagious high-energy excerpt from "MASHUP." The dancers smiled throughout the piece and the audience smiled as the performers took their final bows. For Boston-area dancer lovers, the trip to Concord is well worth it if the Summer Stages Dance performances series continues to attract groups such as Armitage Gone! Dance. Given the opening night show, expectations of this small but celebrated annual event can only be higher for their fourteenth season.

Concord Academy Performing Arts Center Summer Stages
Armitage Gone! Dance

All images via the Armitage Gone! Dance website.

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