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The Fine Line Between the End and the Beginning - Review

On Sunday, December 18th, Profectus Dance presented an evening length work by Melinda Cassiday Jacques entitled The Fine Line Between the End and the Beginning.The work had been previewed in various performances by Profectus, once at their mixed repertory show, Affix, in April 2022, and then at Fall For Fall Dance Festival in October 2022. The cast included eight dancers and one understudy, many of whom are new to Profectus this season. In the opening pages of the program, audiences are greeted with the background of the work which tells the story of loss and grief for Kathy Thomas, Jacques’s mentor in life and in dance. This tribute to Thomas was reiterated in the curtain speech, inviting audiences to reflect on grief in their own lives and what legacy those people have left behind. A somber but celebratory introduction to the performance, indeed.

Made plain in the program as well is the casting of specific characters for the dancers. These included “Kathy”, danced by Jordan Silas, “Mel” danced by Leigh Ducas, “The Next Generation” danced by Nancy Marie Glasscock, and a supporting cast of five dancers. For contemporary dance audiences, this is a slightly different structure from many performances. It creates a narrative whereas each dancer maintains an individual storyline that is clear for their character throughout the work. The work opens with a bright stage and soundscape, as the dancers begin to lay a tape line in the downstage left corner. This tape line is vitally important from the beginning as the dancers get pulled toward and away from it throughout the piece. The tape clearly denotes the fine line between life and death, and the concern for this line is shown by each dancer except for the “Kathy” character, who exudes peace throughout the first few moments. Movement is introduced in the Intro that is grounded and pedestrian, showing the dancers as confident and prepared from the beginning. Much of the phrase material included recognizable modern vocabulary that seems at home in the dancers’ bodies. In these first few sections Silas passes over the tape line, representing the death of the mentor.

Each section of the work is titled to represent the stage in this particular grief story, such as “The Day We Realized She Was Mortal” and “All the Times She Almost Died Until She Did”. This gave the audience a time and a place in the story. The musical tones changed along with the sections, ranging from upbeat strings to ominous cello and church music. One notable theme through the work was the use of contact between the dancers, sometimes a long hug and others a moment of weightshare. These moments established relationships between the dancers, but they could have led to more intricate partnering with the cast of capable movers. Each specific section developed and reorganized one or two specific movement phrases. In one section in particular the full cast filled the stage, working with a phrase individually and quickly and creating organized chaos around Leigh Ducas (“Mel”). This painted a poignant image of a rat race with the main character in the scene hanging on by a thread following a great loss. For experienced dance audiences this was a good opportunity to see the full picture of phrase work, but it didn’t quite fill the virtuosic and sometimes emotional movement score through the pieces. Questions of “why this set of movements” and “how was this developed from a thematic lens” came to mind.

Following a ten minute intermission, the focus in the work turned to ideas of resiliency and one's own mortality. A memorable duet came from Leigh Ducas and Nancy Glasscock, clearly creating a mentor/teacher relationship on stage. This relationship continued as the beginning of the work was mirrored in the final sections. With the stage being filled with the full cast, mournful movement and music began to shift to a somber mood. Toward the end of the work the tape line returned to view as “Mel” had clearly touched all of those around her. Then she crossed the line. Jordan Silas entered again in the demarcated corner of the stage and welcomed Ducas with open arms. The two shared a lovely moment of dancing, starkly contrasted with the slouched faces and bodies of the mourners on the other side of the tape. Once again, the viewer is left with a feeling of peace by those who have figuratively passed on stage. Finally, we are left with the remaining cast and then a solo danced with clarity and precision by “The Next Generation”, Glasscock, that culminated the movement from the entire work. This all to the backdrop of a recording of Kathy Thomas, the true subject of the work, giving her goodbyes and well wishes. A touching tribute, bringing the viewer back to the present once more.

The Fine Line Between the End and the Beginning brought about thoughts of resilience and loss as well as hope and spirituality. The work showed Profectus to be a well rehearsed ensemble who once again presented work that is emotionally accessible. The company has situated itself well to reach audiences new to contemporary dance in Newnan, GA, but is also branching out! If you missed this performance of Jacques’s work, it will be performed in Atlanta on January 21st at the Emory Performing Arts Studio. As stated by Melinda Cassiday Jacques at the opening of the production, the work explores the “fine line between sorrow and hope."

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