Summer days in New England are pretty special. There may be a heaviness in the air from the heat and humidity, but after a long New England winter, we share a collective sigh after the spring thaw. We let loose a little as summer settles in and so does the dance world. With indoor and outdoor performances from summer dance festivals such as Jacob’s Pillow, Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur, Battery Dance Festival, and Bates Dance Festival among others the dance world opens up and grows wild for the summer months.
One example of some of the really truly special “wild fruit” that summer bears is Cirio Collective. Co-founders Jeffrey and Lia Cirio are both extremely talented choreographers and dancers who have pulled together their friends and talented dancers to create the collective. Seeing these soloists branch out on their own, during the summer, away from their larger established ballet companies is so refreshing. Ballet dancers unleashed like Cirio Collective should be playing at places like New York’s Joyce Theatre. (Speaking of The Joyce, why doesn’t Boston have a venue like the Joyce where we can enjoy some of these smaller more grassroots companies.?)
Cirio Collective performed in the studio theatre at Integrarte this past Friday, presenting three works. The intimacy of the space itself is special and freeing. Being so close to the dances and dancers breaks down some of the barriers of the larger traditional venues and the dance itself is vibrant, not overworked, nor under a microscope. It is dance that breathes.
Like summer fruit, summer dance has a freshness you don’t find anywhere else. You can enjoy a beautiful carefully crimped blueberry pie from the local bakery and it is delicious. That’s the mixed program you see at the Opera House. But that pie doesn’t compare to heading out to the blueberry bush, picking a plump fresh blueberry still warm from the sun, and popping it unwashed into your mouth. The taste of that blueberry is sheer uninhibited summer bliss. It is freaking delicious and a moment that stops time. That is summer dance.
The performance began with a piece choreographed by Paul Craig, who in addition to being a talented choreographer is Principal Dancer with Boston Ballet. The Fourth Way, was a joy to watch. It began on a slow primal level like slowly waking up and become aware of one’s own breathing. The movement was beautiful to watch with a flow and swing to it that built throughout the trio. Set to music by Josh Knowles, it was uplifting and beautiful to watch.
The second piece, was a collaboration choreographed and danced by Lia Cirio, Boston Ballet Principal and choreographer, and Emily Mistretta, Kansas City Ballet. Woven in (Mint & Tiger) was a duet with movement woven together in a way that ballroom dance is. This contemporary piece took that connection and interwoven nature of movement that you always see in ballroom and made it work in a contemporary duet. It reminded me of the days of dancing contact improv with Andrew Harwood at Bates Dance Festival when dancers movement were interwoven and improvised and pieces were created that no one saw except the occasional staff member walking by and no dancer would be able to recreate. This duet had that sense of a natural partnership and flow while telling a story of two bodies, two female dancers moving together sometimes as one and other times as two single threads connected.
There was an interesting theme, intentional or not, throughout the three pieces with a focus on faces and heads. I think through the pandemic and adopting masks we have a new appreciation for our heads and faces. We meet one another masked, have seen one another unmasked, have feared a coughing head, have learned to appreciate one another’s faces in a new way. In many of the dances heads were pushed and pulled, knocked off the center of their supporting necks, rested upon one another’s shoulder, eyes shielded, ears covered and such.
The last piece was choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio. There is Beauty in the Dark is a piece that places a platter of hope in front of the collective “we” who have lived through an interesting and difficult few years. Too often we keep on walking through life trying to pretend everything is normal, but there is very little normal about our lives these days. Our world keeps having segments of it being flipped on its head. This piece has that easy saunter through life energy but then solos and duets break off that show some of the moments that literally took people’s breathe away in the past few years. The music included a piece by Danilo Walde, by dancer, choreographer and collective member Paul Craig, and Johann Sebastian Bach Reworked by Anna Stromer. The piece begins with a dance club like bass and beat running in the background and the movement became the melody. Movement themes appeared throughout the dance including those focused on the head and face I mentioned before.
After having watched Cirio Collective, I just want more. I hope to see them on bigger stages (but not too big because otherwise you lose that beautiful intimacy and shared experience) in NYC, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, London or wherever they want to go.
Cirio Collective dancers each bring an individual talent and story to the company. Principal or not, no one dancer offers less to the dances than any other. This carefully selected or perhaps organic group of friends and colleagues is a fabulous group. It includes: Jeffrey Cirio, Lia Cirio, Tyson Clark, Paul Craig, Lorenzo Dunton, Blaine Hoven, Anjuli Hudson, Emily Mistretta.