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March 6, 2015
Review: Zest Collective in “A Matter of Heart”

Have we left room for dance?

This is what I thought as Zest Collective’s dancers maneuvered Brian Michael Reed’s sacred staffs to the humming sounds and improvised musical notes of musical duo Pax Humana. There it was, three genres of artists coming together in the Alchemical Laboratory, appropriately engaged in alchemizing within the artists’ den, cultivating it into a space where meaning and motion created a viscous, transcendental atmosphere.

The dancers’ movements seemed to last forever, hypnotizing everyone in the room with narrative sways, plies, arabesques, jumps, and other contemporary dance movements. Powerful, rhythmic motions told stories of love and loss, human interconnectivity and intimacy with which we are all familiar. Whole bodies -- intense facial expressions included -- guided members of the audience to feelings embedded deep within memory and soul, leaving no one untouched by the pathos-laden choreography.

Although the evening was a collaboration, there was no physical co-working amongst the alliance until the evening of the performance. That no one physically worked together to bring the installation to fruition prior to the premier spoke greatly to the connection amongst the artists; their level of dedication to the story A Matter of Heart was meant to tell. Consequently, the evening was the Zest Collective’s first time hearing the music to which they would be flowing, as well as seeing the hanging installation around which they’d be maneuvering their rehearsed contortions. The dancers had very little opportunity to practice together, and only one member of the Pax Humana duo was able to attend the dance rehearsal the evening before. Prior to arriving to the space, Gentry Isaiah George -- Zest Collective’s Creative Director -- was unsure of its exact dimensions and the placement of the audience in relation to his 360º choreography. Everyone was rehearsed and every member was prepared, but the outcome of the night was entrusted to artistic instinct and nothing more.

Yet, when the performance began in the Alchemical Lab’s upper room, everything came together.

I’d asked myself if we’ve left room for dance because it seems society has ascribed music as the only qualifying medium meant to compliment visual art installations and exhibitions without distracting the audience. The most ubiquitous accompaniment, music is entrusted to set a tone and create a space for art to set itself against. But what of dance? Dance is capable of doing the same thing, no?

Mr. George’s raison d’être for the Zest Collective is to facilitate dialogue between internal and external impulses through dance, using collaborations much like A Matter of Heart to investigate humanity, society, and identity. He guides dancers from across genres; artists of various mediums; and settings of variegating character to tell stories generated from locally-sourced inspiration.

The movements Mr. George curated to join with Pax Humana’s improvised music and Brian Michael Reed’s sacred staffs proved once and for all that dance is a catalyst to bring other art forms to life; it is a compliment to other mediums no matter how grand the space, how intricate the work. There is a common misunderstanding that ostentatious grand jetés and enchanting pas de deux subtract attention from other art in the room -- hence their culturally accepted segregation -- however, the Zest Collective’s work brought the room and all its members to life, illustrating that music, visual art, and dance can be equal partners, co-creators of magnificent experiences that take people to wondrous places deep within themselves.

It was a privilege to bear witness to a vision fulfilled through A Matter of Heart. Powerful and thought-provoking, it beckoned the audience to find the inner node that could serve as the best feeler to help comprehend the depth of the artistic journey in which we were all participating. It left me, and I’m sure many others asking:

In our complicated, interconnected, storyline lives, have we left room for dance?

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