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CORE's dancers moved to an onstage violin. (Photo by John Ramspott)

CORE’s dancers moved to an onstage violin. (Photo by John Ramspott)

CORE Performance Company staged a world too wide last weekend at the Rialto Center for the Arts, a multifaceted and interdisciplinary concert that featured Mercury, a Houston-based orchestra conducted by Antoine Plante.

The evening-length work — executed gracefully and adeptly by the dancers — addressed the cyclical nature of human life and was full of lilting and free-flowing choreography by Sue Schroeder and Amanda K. Miller-Fasshauer.  

Through Baroque-era music, dance and the familiar soliloquy “All the world’s a stage” from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Schroeder and Miller-Fasshauer focused on life’s changes in a variety of creative ways. Even as the work moved through the stages of life, however, the movement style remained largely the same throughout, which made the concert’s overall intention and conclusion unclear.  

The beginning of the piece introduced the theme of the phases of life. Lone figures entered from the back of the stage, sparsely set with two rolling clothes racks on either side. One figure played a violin while the other recited the soliloquy, likening the cyclical nature of life to the stage; everyone is an actor or actress moving through various roles, from infant to lover to soldier and finally into old age.

At the end of life, the soliloquy claims, we are much as we began, without means to interact in the world and overwhelmed by its vastness.  

After establishing this ideological backdrop, soloist Joshua Rackliffe expertly danced a gestural segment that evoked the evolution of life. Directly upstage, four dancers moved in a line across the stage in a quasi-baroque minuet while holding a long piece of fabric. 

Rackliffe’s solo grew from tiny, baby movements into larger, more extensive phrases; the other dancers nimbly pranced around him, curving their line as if to cover him. Just before he disappeared, the four dancers with the cloth traveled back upstage.

This movement was repeated multiple times until at the very end, when the cloth finally blocked Thurmond completely from view. The expansiveness of the world, represented by the cloth, didn’t cover Thurmond until the very end of his life, when he was enveloped, hidden within a world too wide.

The dancers changed wardrobe onstage. (Photo by John Ramspott)

The dancers changed wardrobe onstage. (Photo by John Ramspott)

Costuming choices similarly reinforced the theme. Throughout the performance, dancers changed their costumes on stage, choosing new, temporally appropriate attire from the clothes racks. Dancers shed one set of clothing in favor of another as they passed from one stage of life to another. Much as we don specific articles of clothing for specific tasks or phases in our lives, the dancers demonstrated this fluidity in a microcosm.

While the metaphor of passing from one phase to the next prevailed throughout the piece, the overall conclusion and intention behind the metaphor remained unclear. There were slight shifts in movement style and dancers appeared to shift from one phase of life to the next based on costuming and text; but the movement style did not alter dramatically. Movement stayed light and lilting throughout the concert.

The intention behind the unchanging movement may have been to show that although we move through phases in life, we remain fundamentally the same. If this is the case, however, the choreography could have represented this more purposefully. 

The movement tone did shift minutely a few times during the piece, as in a highly energetic and playful duet and a jerky, staccato solo. But it was unclear whether the consistent movement quality was intentional or not. On the other hand, if the choreographers intended to contrast Shakespeare’s diverse descriptions of the phases of life with the idea that we are all the same underneath our layers, the short moments of variation in movement style did not fit. Consequently, the opportunity to juxtapose the soliloquy with the movement was lost.

a world too wide — a piece full of flowing movement, intricate music, and Shakespeare’s text — portrayed the stages of human life and the roles we all play in it. While images and metaphors for this evolution and cycle are abundant, the end message was unclear. 

Are we the same at our core even as we peel back layers of life? Or as Shakespeare intimates, are we ever changing, only to end where we begin? Clearer intention in movement quality would have answered these questions.

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