Four young men and women in their underwear lay in a pool of dim light. Another young woman in her skivvies stood holding a microphone. In the temporary structure Greenside has erected as one of their venues, the air was warm and thick. I admit, I was worried. In a piece about intimacy and the difficultly of relationships, the stage seemed to be set for some cringe-worthy over-sharing, both physically and verbally. But Rebecca Hovord, part of the nascent Preheat Dance Company formed with Melissa Flynn, surprised me with her carefully confessional, honestly delivered text, and the piece, To Become One Flesh, was dotted with moments of true power.
Admittedly a transitional effort between amateur study and professional work, To Become showed signs of potential in the treatment of the material and dramaturgy of the dance. The choreography was unsophisticated for the most part, but Hovord herself is a remarkably powerful and compelling dancer and when she moved away from the mic and took the floor I could not take my eyes off her. The text told of romantic relationships from Hovord’s character’s youth: raw and realistic anecdotes about being too early exposed to dependency, neglect, and abuse. Accompanying this, the half-naked company performed duets and group choreography, sometimes tender and curious, sometimes violent and wild. One stood out to me, Siobhan Cowel, not just because, after Hovord, her technique was most developed, but also because she looks very young. Too young. She looked too young to be in her underwear, too young to be handled by the piece’s male performers, too young to be, well, sexual. Her presence made Hovord’s text immediate and tangible. It was a strong casting choice that enhanced the emotion of the piece.
The other exceptional moment came at the end when dancers ran about pulling each other to the floor. A simple task, the directive was clearly to yank and fall as hard as possible. The venue is a portable box, with a thin, hollow floor. With each plunge, the dancer’s crash shook the whole structure and pounded our chairs. This section had an abandoned frenzy that made me literally afraid for the dancers’ safety and I wondered if someone needed to stand up and ask them to stop. The goal being to viscerally shake the audience into empathy, I found this section completely effective.
To Become One Flesh feels like a first draft of a larger piece, ending, it seemed, right in the middle of an exploration that could be deepened much further. But it is a strong beginning and I hope Hovord and Flynn continue to push themselves out of the confines of contemporary modern dance, and farther into the powerful performance achieved in the piece’s last moment.