As a child, I did a few-year-long stint in dance class. I started with tap and ballet, then added jazz to my repertoire after seeing the older girls dance to “That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted.” Shortly thereafter I decided it was my favorite genre of dance. There was a liveliness to it that was similar to tap, and while it required the same command as ballet, it felt less rigid. It was a lot of fun.
I offer my limited dance background not to claim any dance expertise. On the contrary, I claim only to know how it makes me feel. And Britta Joy Peterson’s intricately choreographed duet “And Now, Hold Me,” which premiered at Dance Place on H Street last weekend, made me feel a lot of things. It was tender, brave and commanding — and a lot of fun.
As the third installment of Peterson’s Relational Series, “And Now, Hold Me” focuses on the relationship between self and space. It only makes sense, then, that the space itself was integral to the performance. The venue was small and intimate, and the theater’s black box style meant that the absence of a traditional stage offered the chance for audience members to feel completely immersed in the performance.
Though at times, I forgot it was even a performance. From the minute the show began, I knew it would break beyond the standard parameters of dance. With storylines segmented into vignettes and incorporating elements of spoken word, comedy, light, music and more, “And Now, Hold Me,” was more than a performance: It was a metaphysical slice of what it means to be alive and to take up space in the world.
The vulnerability of the show’s two dancers, Sergio Guerra Abril and Dylan Lambert, was in large part to thank for this. The duo’s chemistry was undeniable, and their ability to bounce off one another was something to behold.
Fittingly, there were many moments in which they held one another — in one scene, they even took turns wrapping around each other and peeping their heads through each other’s legs — but rarely did I feel like I was an unsolicited observer in these intimate exchanges. Instead, I felt involved, welcomed even. In making space for each other, they made space for me.
Space also was quite literally “made” throughout the show. As the performance went on, a giant spool of fabric located on the right side of the stage became further and further unraveled as the characters weaved it into an intricate tapestry of knots and ties behind them. The characters’ internal experiences, it seemed, were creating material effects in the world.
“And Now, Hold Me,” posits that our experiences have physical effects beyond just flesh, that we take up space in metaphorical and entirely tangible ways. The paradox of the small venue was its close-knit, intimate nature created space for the audience to bring their own experiences to the space, while also allowing those experiences to bounce off each other and become entirely new ones.
And now, after the performance, I feel new.
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