Messiah in motion 

Several Dancers Core's Messiah

The last time I saw a show by Several Dancers Core's CORE Performance Company, strobe lights were involved. To raw, post-modern music -- scratched, abrasive, often arrhythmic -- "America! Question" posed kinesthetic nihilist dance tableaux below a projection of a German videographer's indictment of American overconsumption. Not your typical tutus and Tchaikovsky, right?

So it was a bit of a jolt to watch these same dancers drawing on the classical movement repertoire to the gorgeous solos and choruses of Handel's "Messiah" in Several Dancers' dramatically reworked and uncharacteristically accessible dance of the same name. What's with all this stuff that even my movement-newbie friends would readily recognize as, you know, "dance"?

OK, but it's springtime in Atlanta, the cherry trees are in bloom with the dogwoods not far behind, and some religious cult is talking about a dead guy who came back to life, so perhaps the time is right for something lovely. And Messiah is certainly that, particularly in the joyous "Hallelujah" chorus that had my own deltoids springing involuntarily as though to leap me off my winter-width butt.

The dancers perform to live music by the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Houston's Antoine Plante. Plante worked with the dancers during the development phase to illuminate Handel's music and, according to artistic director Sue Schroeder, "conducted their bodies. ... What we're doing is taking the sound in and reverberating it out. The musicality is in the full body."

Not that they've limited themselves to dance that Handel would have recognized. Though more classical than most of Several Dancers' repertoire, Messiah is no spinning-swans Easter ballet. The movement is abstract, not narrative, though the lines and shapes have the quality of ancient holy runes, holding meaning mysterious and portentous. Hand gestures struggle to speak, and bundles of fabric pass from dancer to dancer as veiled offerings.

This is a great gateway dance for those who haven't yet received the spirit of post-modern movement, with plenty of preaching to prompt the post-modern choir's sweet hallelujahs.

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