Fuse Dance Review: A Rousing Tenth Anniversary for Lorraine Chapman, The Company

As a performer, Lorraine Chapman has few peers in the area. Her body has been forged exquisitely in the ballet studio and further honed by her early professional career as a ballet dancer.

Lorraine Chapman The Company—The 10th Year Anniversary Showcase. At the Green Street Studios, Cambridge, MA, through November 11.

By Iris Fanger.

A Glimpse of Lorraine Chapman’s PULP TANGO. Photo: Steve Wollkind Photos

Choreographer and performer, Lorraine Chapman, a highly regarded member of the Boston-based dance community, is celebrating her company’s 10th anniversary in a two weekend blitz of programs by her troupe, augmented by a number of guests. The six performances, last weekend and next at Green Street Studios in Cambridge, MA, are an enormous effort on Chapman’s part because of the vagaries of her chosen profession.

Unlike the ballet companies, which garner most of the public attention, contemporary troupes such as Chapman’s exist in a bubble populated chiefly by other dancers. The performances are produced in the manner of the Little Red Hen, with Chapman as artistic director and lead performer creating most of the repertory, training and rehearsing the dancers, attending to administrative work, and leading the fund raising charge with meager outside help.

Like Chapman, who earns her living as a teacher, the members of her company must have day jobs to support their dance habit, although Chapman hopes to raise enough money to pay them a modest stipend. The audience at last Friday night’s performance was filled with Chapman’s colleagues from the local dance world.

An scene from THE CHANGING ROOM. Photo: Steve Wollkind Photos

As a performer, Chapman has few peers in the area. Her body has been forged exquisitely in the ballet studio and further honed by her early professional career as a ballet dancer. However, her sensibilities are quirky, as if her antennae are always browsing through a catalog of wider theatrical styles, often to better frame her wit and good humor. A viewer would be hard put to pigeon-hole her as an artist, but that’s no difficulty when it comes to appreciating her high skill levels. She has excellent taste in choosing dancers and an even better eye for inviting choreographers to make solo works for her to perform. The two weekends include pieces by Diane Arvanites, David Parker, and Marcus Schulkind.

The opening program last Friday night featured four works by Chapman, a solo by Arvanites titled Amelia, and a work in progress, Where’s The Magic, improvised by Chapman and two guests. The programs change at each performance.

The Friday night opener for the company, the changing room, seemed to be an off-kilter nod to the mid-twentieth century hit parade. A series of bits danced to such sentimental songs as “Someone To Watch Over Me,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” and “Dream A Little Dream of Me” were performed within one or another of two squares marked out by tiny light bulbs on the floor. The movement and the lyrics (warbled off-key, carioca-style), were constricted by the small spaces, taking the form of bursts of anger and frustration propelled by broken dreams, especially the first song. The latter was performed by Li-Ann Lim as if she was trying to break down the invisible walls. Pulp Tango is for five women and one man, and it transforms the cliche ballroom dance set-up—single male-single female—into a chorus line for the women, occasionally interrupted by Jesse Mangan, a lothario up to no good.

A moment in UNDERNEATH THE BLUE SHIRT. Photo: Steve Wollkind Photos.

Gilbert & George, set to music sung by opera legend Lily Pons, veered closest to the antics of the silent film comedians, complete with a re-appearing top hat and a hopping, patty cake line-up. In Amelia, Chapman evoked the airborne experience of the aviatrix, wearing a black dress, leather helmet, and gloves. At times, her rotating arms became her plane’s propeller; or else her body took on the shape of the plane in flight. Sometimes, however, she became Earhart herself, looking out over the broad expanse of the planet below or up at the firmament. Never did she display fear, only wonder at being alive and at the exhilarating experience of flight. The work—and Chapman’s performance of it—are among the most memorable dances created for the Boston repertory.

Ramiro Vaughan, a young, street-wise dancer who is a high school student from Revere, adapted a variety of street dance styles, including krumping, for his unforgettable performance in Underneath the Blue Shirt. Directed by Chapman, his feet never stopped moving in smooth glides to the slow, mournful measures of a country music number, his legs accompanied by fluid upper arm gestures. Chapman, partnered by Chris Alloways-Ramsey, performed a ballet-tinged pas de deux for change of pace. These works, with others, will be performed again next weekend at Green Street Studios.

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