Review: We're Here by Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company
by David Glen Robinson
We’re Here was the December 2022 offering of the Austin-based Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, headquartered at Café Dance in west Austin. Ever-innovative, Dunn Hamrick the choreographer and her company formulated a visual guide for the aid and assistance of audience members. It was a rebuslike mural or map of symbols (hiking boot, cloud, microwave, etc.) taking us from the beginning to the end of the show. So we wouldn’t forget, the hardcopy map covered the upstage wall of the Café Dance performance space. A key to the symbols appeared on the back of the one-page program. Lo and behold, the symbols represented choreographer-dancers responsible for specific sections of the dance. With that, all we had to do was figure out where the sections began and ended. Dunn Hamrick assured us in her curtain speech that we had to figure nothing out, but we could relax instead and enjoy the artistic movement of the company.
This we did, watching a work of contemporary dance that showcased of the talents forming the company: Ana Bauer, Jairus Carr, Cara Cook, Alyson Dolan, and Carissa Topham. Stephen Pruitt did lighting and technical direction. Kathy Dunn Hamrick designed and fabricated the flannel shirt costumes, and Natasha Small served as stage manager.
Ana Bauer, not-so-long-ago academy-graduated, has gained a more professional esthetic since joining the company. She and all the dancers move together with high confidence, creating an atmosphere of collegiality. This seems to give them more room for inventiveness and play, as shown in Alyson Dolan’s and Carissa Topham’s longish duet. That segment of the wall map featured voice text, vocalizations, pantomime, and tight unison work. Dolan’s and Topham’s use of voice and pedestrian movement was evocative of Pina Bausch, but the meta-story was broken apart at so many points that its purposeful absurdism was driven to high levels remniscent of Eugene Ionesco in theatre and Salvador Dali in visual art. The multilevel puns were hilarious. If actors had performed the same material, they could not have attained the same physicality and flexibility in the punctuation segments of spoking and sweeping limbs combined with smooth floorwork. The duet was a high point in the dance.
Several other duets also stood out. Those by Jairus Carr and Cara Cook were nothing less than powerful. Their internal sense of timing created flawless unison work in the high-energy, high-speed sections. In his performances, Jairus Carr seems to have gained a form of leadership on stage, and not because he's the only male in the company. His demonstrated growth is still impressive.
The ensemble work allowed the audience to track the referred locations on the rebus map. The "waiting for the microwave" sections were especially innovative in portraying the different ways folks wait for the ‘wave to finish nuking their food. Sometimes the absurd doesn’t have to be achieved. It just is.
Kathy Dunn Hamrick took pride of place in choreographing the short introductory section and finale. The end section gave us a full-out demonstration of the powers of this company—extended, well-timed, demanding, and athletic. It was a reminder of the high quality and refined skills of the group, certainly not to be taken lightly. The section offered an excellent piece of music by Michael Wall, a specialist in composing music for dance.
We’re Here was yet another gemlike dance event given to the world by the Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company. Look for another show from them in about six months. They are here, and we wish fervently for them to stay.
Note: graphics include promotional images taken outdoors in early December.
December 09 - December 11, 2022
3307 Hancock Drive
Austin, TX, 78731