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Profectus delivers brilliant first full-length performance

By: Ashley Gibson

Photos by Julian Jacques Photography

Profectus, a local professional dance company now in its second season, wove together the most well-crafted and articulate narrative on reflection and positivity in its first full-length work, Pensive. This work premiered November 7-8 at the Newnan Theatre Company in the quaint and timeless downtown Newnan.

The show, choreographed by artistic director Olivia May, showcased the growing depth and range of this relatively new dance company. From their inaugural The Seeds We Plant, which featured an assortment of repertory, short new works, and guest works, in April 2021 to now, the artistic development was stunning. The company added three brand new company members – Danielle Coleman, Rachel Dehart, Jordan Silas – one trainee, and two interns for its new season, bringing its total number of dancers to nine. May, her associate directors, and the dancers have done a lovely job of cultivating a unique and cohesive movement vocabulary with which to mark the company’s style.

Pensive was broken down into three overarching scenes: Natural, Mankind, and Psychological. These scenes provided a brief window into various bitter and difficult moments one faces in life like war, disaster, and illness.

“Scene 1: Natural” opened with a thoughtful solo danced by Lorraine Casablanca. She sat perched in a red cushioned chair situated in the far downstage left corner. Casablanca’s head tilted downward, which immediately conveyed a deep despair. She sat in stillness as if frozen or paralyzed by the weight of hardship until sudden small finger articulations broke the trance. She began to softly tap and toy with the armrests, as she wiggled her fingers free from their aching stiffness.

Her shoulders arched forward, suddenly unglued from the back of the chair that had held them

upright for so long. She leaned in toward the audience and, freeing the remainder of her body from the chair at last, struck a lunging pose with a delicately arched arm overhead. She stood poised directly in front of the chair.

Casablanca’s opening solo continued with a back-and-forth momentum of returning to the chair and dancing atop it. The movement throughout the solo was airy and light, further accentuated by all of the balletic shapes and lines sprinkled throughout the work as a whole.

Chance Rakin and Jacquelyn Sheppard joined Casablanca onstage for a rich modern pas de deux set to Olafur Arnalds’ “Near Light.” Their dancing paired well together, and the chemistry was angelic. The first part of their duet was dimly lit, but as the music swelled, the stage flooded with light, bringing the pair into a sharper focus. Sheppard branched away into a solo phrase ignited by two sweeping triplet steps, rocking side to side with elegantly outstretched arms before jumping upward to land delicately in 2nd position.

When the phrase was repeated with Rakin as a duet, it brought a new sense of lightness and comfort to the familiar choreography. He matched Sheppard’s fluidity and grace with skill, accompanying her in an easy, soft companionship alongside her journey to find hope.

The rest of the company joined them onstage for the last section of the scene, dancing through a series of canons and incorporating a motif of crossed wrists with the fingers outstretched in bold, sharp lines. Individual dancers pushed the chair in short bursts until it was centered upstage.

The performance continued without pause straight into “Scene 2: Mankind,” which opened with another chair solo – this time from Daniele Coleman. The group came back together for a section of dynamic ferocity accentuated by a soft piano accompaniment that slowly gave way to pounding drums. The excitement was driven by lofty, spiraling barrel turns that set into motion a grandiose series of powerful jumps amongst the group.

An engaging series of simultaneous duets followed this section, led by Melinda Cassiday Jacques. The duets bubbled over with moments of warm, quiet introspection and companionship. Jacques traveled across the front of the stage using her hands in a series of inversions, seeming to manipulate gravity and the air around her. Her movement was light and poignant.

Jordan Silas’ solo at the start of “Scene 3: Psychological” drew me into a dark, tortured sliver of time. Lights dimly the space, silhouetting Silas as she continued May’s very tasteful mix of repetition and development. Silas leaned back against the base of the chair, rocking back into her forearms. She bent her supporting leg while developing the other leg out into a sharp flexed shape that sliced through air.

She twisted her hips upward, perched lightly at an angle beside the chair. Her eyes were downcast, and her legs glued themselves together underneath her. The shape unwound, bringing her back to a heavy seated position. On a third repetition of the swiveling, one leg escaped from behind her, flicking up and melting back into her shape organically. Several times Silas tried to break away from her magnetic tie to the armchair. She walked away with purpose and intention, but returned after a hesitant glance over the shoulder.

All three scenes culminated in a finale featuring the entire company that was set to “This Bitter Earth/On The Nature of Daylight.” The finale focused on the small everyday acts of kindness and love that ward off the darkness that is ever-present in life.

The finale rang out with energy and fervor. It echoed all of the promise and impact of the three previous sections and brought all of the dancers back together in a very definitive way. The work was filled with exquisite bodily lines and powerfully picturesque moments within small snippets of partner work and canons versus unison. The final image of the performance, the chair lit on an empty stage, was both haunting and empowering.

I was deeply impressed by the artistic and professional growth I have seen from this company in just one short year. Their second season is off to a strong start, as Profectus begins to blossom into its own creative niche in the Atlanta arts.

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