WEST HARTFORD — “O Squared” is a contemporary ballet inspired by the painting “Operetta” by Barbara Grossman. Dimensional Dance director and choreographer Ruth Lewis was originally commissioned to create the ballet by Miss Porter’s School Dance Department in 2014. The work has since become the signature piece of the company, according to an email from Dimensional Dance. The last movement will be showcased at the Connecticut Dance Alliance’s celebration of National Dance Day and will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a rain date of Sunday, Sept. 20 at Blue Back Square, West Hartford. Dimensional Dance will open the celebration at 11 a.m.
The company’s performance will weave together illustration and dance. All dancers will be following Covid-19 protocols and creatively masked while performing. Stand-out professional dancers Matisse Madden, Allison Pearsall, Pam Glauber, Chloë Knopf, Cat Quinn, and Sharah Defoe give breath and life to this vibrantly drawn scene. The piece was last performed at The Cathedral in Bloomfield.
Viewers will see a world beyond the painting as dancers often take to the air in the six sections, each adding more color and movement and passionate interplay as it develops. Setting the scene, “O Squared” features four dancers passing in and out of silhouette of the painting “Operetta” in which two singers, one of them seated, are looking at a music score while two cats frolic beneath them. The “Cat Duet” displays a jumble and tumble of fun.
Then, through the magic that is dance and music, a profound note on the cello marks the entrance of artists who seemingly pass through, on top of, and around a chair, maintaining a push and pull attraction to each other. The next section involves a trio of women partnering each other and two men in an energetic display of lifts, “bourrees (short, quick steps en pointe),” slides, and “grand jetés” (splits in midair) that builds to a stormy crescendo. After the whirlwind of motion winds down, a dancer gracefully floats to the earth in relief.
Oxygen is in short supply in the final movement after the women and men run and “chainee” (fast turns) onto the stage descending in a pool of flowing white skirts representing the numerous white flowers in the painting. The ending is a harmonious study in the iconic modern dance phrase “contract, release” as the dancers breathe in unison with symmetry and support of each other. Then with a last life-giving burst, the dancers are released, as if from a cocoon, in a spiraling series of sustained arabesques of white lotus flowers.
“I felt a connection with the women in the painting as my mother was an opera singer,” said Lewis. In 2017, in another instance of drawing inspiration from paintings to make movement art, she created “Eras in Essence,” a dance based on the abstract pottery still lifes by the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi.
Dimensional Dance is known locally for its evocative and interactive performances, showcasing professional dancers from a variety of dance backgrounds including breakdancing, contemporary, jazz, and ballet. The company includes dancers living in Connecticut with a wide variety of dance backgrounds, from classical to contemporary.
Dimensional Dance was established in 2011 by director Ruth Lewis to inspire and educate through and about dance. The company focuses on artistically presenting educational and creative content through a variety of dance genres, and visits schools throughout the state performing and meeting with students. Programs discuss the history of varying styles of dance, as well as bring to life the stories of historical figures.
“I love what I do. I work with people who are dedicated to their craft as artists and athletes,” said Lewis.
Dimensional Dance will finish its delayed 2020 season in the fall of 2021 (Covid-19 restrictions permitting) with the premiere of its new story ballet “Prudence Crandall and Sarah Harris: Whole Souled Women.” Set in the 1830s, it is the true story about the Connecticut educator Prudence Crandall, and Sarah Harris, one of her first students of color.
“Prudence Crandall’s academy was the first institution of higher education in the country to teach women of color,” according to Dr. Jennifer Rycenga, professor of Comparative Religion at San Jose State University These brave women risked their lives to advocate for racial justice and challenge the status quo of educational discrimination.
Upcoming online performances: Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. Dimensional Dance will showcase “Need Quarantine” on the Ted Hershey Dance Marathon Facebook Premiere as well as CJacks Arts Facebook Premiere and CJacks Arts You Tube Channel Live. Additionally, on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m., Dimensional Dance will present the global premiere of “One Art” choreographed by Dimensional Dance member Elisa Wharton with music by “Slow Meadow.” (see CJacks Arts Facebook page for other global times).