Island Moving Company's Dance Extravaganza Worth the Trip to Newport

Jul 26, 2013

The Dance Festival is taking place this weekend at the Island Moving Company.
Credit Thomas Palmer / Island Moving Company

They call it The Great Friends Dance Festival and Island Moving, under the direction of veteran Rhode Island dancer/choreographer, Miki Ohlsen, has collected and collaborated with a half dozen or so companies and choreographers.

If you go to Newport,  and if you love dance you should, you’ll catch a terrific Houston, Texas company called Houston Metropolitan Dance. They might be giving you a piece with music by Phillip Glass and Ravi Shankar, no less. Or they might come up with excerpts from a dance called “Air” where the surging performers move to songs like “Beautiful Balloon” and “Catch a Falling Star.”

Houston Met is a company capable of speed, speed, speed and tautly drawn work, too. There’s a lot of joy when they are on stage.

Then again you could catch Rhode Island-based dancer/choreographer Michael Bolger team up with musician Tom Rose and dancer Sara Barney in “Truth Be Told. As Rose drums away, plays a horn and other instruments, the movers are, well, they are plastering the stage with what looks like painter’s tape. Bolger and Barney carefully produced squares outlined in bright blue. They dance within them, and outside them, too.

What’s it all about, Alfie? Ha! You tell me. The dancers, eventually, do pull up all the tape, leaving you both bemused and amused.

And, of course, there’s the host company performs too. Ohlsen’s “Of Beauty and Light” done to Phillip Glass, presents two wonderful dancers, Carol Tang and Jose Gonzalez. They move carefully, vibrantly, through a series of moments in what seems their relationship. This is one of those dances that allows you your own take on what being seen on the floor. I saw a life together, in all its wonderful and difficult times. Tang and Gonzalez gave that a complexion both slight and strong, and deep.

Each evening is filled with movement like this. Alas, there were too many at the performances I caught to speak of each one. All of this, all of the quick changes of theme, the new ideas, and the old ones looked at again, takes place, by the way, is one of Rhode island’s least known historical buildings, the Great Friends Quaker Meeting House just off Broadway in Newport. Notice its wide floorboards, its open space for Quaker meetings Built in 1699,   the Meeting House, thankfully air conditioned this year, seems somehow welcoming toward the modern dance portrayed by the Great Friends.

Incidentally, Island Moving’s four year old idea will bring the company other benefits besides this hot weather festival. Companies who have come to Newport with host IMC, In fact, Island Moving will dance in Denver in October, Houston next April and Richmond next May.

But for now, the heat is on in Newport. The Houston Met, IMC along with companies and dancers from New York, Richmond, Va. and other places will be in the Meeting House this weekend. Great Friends Is well worth a trip over the bridges.

Want to Go?

The Great Friends Dance Festival continues through Saturday night in Newport.

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