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New company Profectus Dance takes root in Atlanta

by: Ashley Gibson

Hands circle tensely, holding an empty spherical shape. Arms contract and expand, reaching to force their way out of a confined space. Elbows cradle something seemingly heavy and dark. A series of contrasts: grounded yet ethereal movement, heavy and light sensations, brokenness and healing.

The Seeds We Plant opened with a company-wide collaborative piece of repertory, “Seeds.” The three dancers, dressed in long flowy shirts and dark ankle-length leggings, carried an air of elation and ambition as they embarked on a truly momentous evening.

This premiere on April 10, 2021 marked the first-ever dance concert of professional company, Profectus Dance. In addition to “Seeds,” this eclectic show featured an array of work from the Profectus team itself—Melinda Cassiday Jacque and Brielle Rathbun—as well as a series of solos by Artistic Director Olivia May. The company hosted two guest artists as well for a total of four additional pieces. Each work came together through the theme of “planting a seed.”

“Enough is Enough,” choreographed by Jacques, featured herself, three other dancers, and a beautiful array of music. This work paired the dancers together into contrasting duets throughout the piece. One particular series of gestures evolved throughout the work to reflect the process of healing. The dancers’ palms wiped across their foreheads then circled down below their chins, sliding down the front of their bodies to their thighs. In a moment of bitter frustration, the dancers tossed up their arms and gazed disgustedly at their palms as though they were covered in sweat or makeup wiped from their faces. On the final reoccurrence of these gestures, a new feeling pierced the air – relief, contentment, letting go. This progression was compelling.

“I Saw It” by Rathbun opened with five dancers hauntingly muttering out of sync. The work was unshakably bright, hopeful, and inspiring. This piece felt reminiscent of the fresh feeling after a heavy rain.

The series of five solos, collectively entitled “\ lev \: to hold dear,” symbolized different seasons of life and was inspired by the C.S. Lewis book, The Four Loves. Olivia May dedicated this choreographic endeavor about love to the city of Newnan, which was recently devastated by tornadoes. Profectus also held a water bottle drive at the performance to help the people of Newnan.

“Nubivagant,” a guest piece presented by the Esthete Collective, was dynamically radiant and powerful. The space was adorned with a small couch/footrest, a wooden table and chair, and dozens of antique books. This duet, choreographed by Olivia Rowe in collaboration with the cast, accentuated a strong bond between the two dancers, Calla Vaughn and Meagan Wade. The dancers clearly trusted each other, as displayed through strong partner work, and the piece was playful and fiery.

Arise Dance Ministry, another guest artist of the evening, presented three short works, the highlight of which was “Run To The Father.” This work by Erin Tapp was lyrically driven, and the dancers appeared very connected and brought a clear conviction to the work. All three of their pieces were ballet-based, and the organization’s mission of facilitating community and personal healing was evident through their dances.

Although The Seeds We Plant was originally intended as an outdoor picnic experience, the dance concert was moved indoors on the day of the show due to weather. The inside of Compass Dance Academy functioned as the performance area with Marley-covered wood panels and the audience seated in a shallow arc around the front. However, with a sold-out show, the seating was snug, especially taking COVID-19 precautions into account. But guests were allowed to move their chairs around if needed. Most of the crowd removed their masks once seated despite the close quarters.

All in all, the performance was strong and felt thoroughly inspirational. The concept of planting a seed seemed fitting for the company’s first show, as well as in the broader sense of the world beginning to reemerge after a long year of battling a pandemic. At first, the sheer number of pieces felt almost overwhelming to consume. However, the show carried with it a sense of imperativeness. These numerous stories demanded to be told in this time and space and ushered in a feeling of hope.

Julian Jacques Photography

Ashley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Kennesaw State University, where she performed in works by both Christine Welker and McCree O’Kelley. She currently serves on faculty at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education and Studio Go Dance. Ashley also volunteers for DanceATL and is the chairperson of its writing committee. She is a freelance writer/copy editor in the Atlanta community, contributing to publications such as DanceATL’s Promenade. When she’s not dancing or teaching, she enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors.

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