Way before The Black Keys, Akron gave birth to another pop culture icon: Chrissie Hynde. Last weekend, GroundWorks Dance Theater recharged the gritty ‘70s rock of Hynde and the Pretenders in “Hindsight,” an irresistible work by veteran choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett. GroundWorks rocked out in “Hindsight“ with a teasing bad-girl/bad-boy attitude that had the audience at its feet.
A Knight Arts grantee based in nearby Cleveland Heights, GroundWorks maintains a year-round presence in Akron. Friday and Saturday at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, the company performed “Hindsight” alongside an Akron premiere by Philadelphia choreographer Ronen Koresh and the reprise of a work by former company member Amy Miller.
In “Hindsight,” a group of movements to Pretenders songs are backed by a video design by Adam Larsen. Black-and-white or boldly colored photos of Akron and Hynde create a strong sense of place behind the dancers, dressed in fun, sexy, black and pink costumes by Victoria Mearini.
Taylor-Corbett set this piece to the dancers’ strengths: fluid power, tight ensemble, commitment. And she has captured the essence of Hynde’s persona as a strong woman — a tough image that suits Akron’s “don’t you dare count us out” style. Felise Bagley and Damien Highfield also evoked a gentler side in “I’ll Stand By You.”
In “Rosalee,” Kathryn Taylor strutted her stuff in a short tutu and black boots, bringing the hunky Gary Lenington to his knees. Sarah Perrett flirted with one cowboy, then another, in “Love’s a Mystery.” (We don’t have cowboys in Akron, but oh well.) In the company’s 13 seasons, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these dancers have so much fun.
They also looked terrific in Amy Miller’s “Valence,” named for the outermost electrons in an atom, which react to their counterparts in other atoms. Against atmospheric shadowy lighting by Dennis Dugan, backed by a mysterious electronic score by Peter Swendsen (hmm, is that a nuclear collider I hear?) the dancers grasped hands and then flew apart, circling and connecting in ever- changing ways that highlighted their tensile poise. The piece was totally engrossing for some time, then lost force by continuing on the same theme for too long.
Ronen Koresh’s “CoDa” is a split-personality piece set to music by Rene Aubry. Jazzy unison sections were pleasingly hard to categorize with the captivating
blend of influences (Eastern European celebration, European cabaret) that the Israeli-born choreographer brought to the table. Disappointingly, some other sections reverted to modern dance clichés.
These small caveats aside, the evening was another welcome infusion of Artistic Director David Shimotakahara’s sophisticated taste. Shimotakahara formerly danced with Ohio Ballet in Taylor-Corbett’s “In a Word,” a favorite of that now-defunct Akron company. With “Hindsight,” he and his company may just have found their own signature piece.
GroundWorks DanceTheater; 13125 Shaker Square, Suite 201; Cleveland; 216-751-0088; www.groundworksdance.org.