Core Contemporary Dance’s annual offering of “The Doorway” opened to a full house on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center. Now in its fourth year, the 2013 production, still set within the confines of a Victorian mansion, includes new characters and new rooms to be explored, and was a hit with attendees at the performance Friday, Oct. 4.
A melding of Pierrot, Harlequin dolls, Victorian toys and rooms, Paris, a bit of the Moulin Rouge and a whole lot of surrealism make “The Doorway” a truly unique experience that transcends the idea of a contemporary dance production.
Theater meets contemporary dance and greets guests at the door with a ticket taker that offered the stub and withdrew it as the patron reached for it. Never uttering a sound or even smiling, she offered the stub once again. And withdrew it once again, causing patrons to shake their heads or laugh.
The program, written like a menu sans prices, is easier to obtain, so don’t forget this piece of ephemera that is just as important to the show as the gowns that hang overhead in the first lobby. Gowns float bodiless, a reminder of some distant time and place, in burgundy, green and peach, replete with lace and attached to padded hangers. Who wore these gowns, you might wonder.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m., but arrive early and explore the mansion. Thanks to the lobby design of Belle Covell Celebrations and the artistic vision of Kelli Leighton, Core’s artistic director and choreographer, “The Doorway” experience begins when you pass through the venue’s front door.
Lobby design extends to the restrooms, aptly titled “Powder Rooms,” and the long hall between the two theater entrances where you’ll discover more gowns, including one that could have been worn by Miss Havisham from Charles Dicken’s “Great Expectations,” as she sat at her powder table waiting for her long lost love to return.
Vines creep up one wall and a bed, resplendent in red and gold velvet and satin, might have been where a French courtesan once rested. You’ll discover baskets and dolls and furniture, and the only item that felt out a place – a typewriter that seemed too new, but it also seemed to fit in this quirky and surreal world where everything was hyper.
Waiters roam the lobbies in white shirts, black slacks and electric blue waist sashes. Posture and language hyper-erect and correct. Offerings include coffees perhaps swiped from other patrons, cameras or even a large doll that had been carried about by one of the life-size doll actors. Pierrot and Harlequin characters wander about, some sad, some mischievous. They are exploring their world and their visitors and want, like the ticket taker, to play.
Under the bright colors and proper posture, though, lies a bit of a darker side. Not frightening, just a bit darker, like those old mansions that beg to be explored where no one knows what to expect.
The 300-seat theater offers an excellent view of the stage and serves to bring the audience into the world of the mansion on one side of the door. Play and interaction continues before the program officially begins with a reminder, and one of the few times anyone speaks, to be quiet.
A dance program would certainly not be complete without music, and choices for “The Doorway,” which include Leonard Bernstein’s “Le Carnaval des Animaux XIII” and Lenka’s “Like a Song,” is as much a feast for the ears as the costumes and props are for the eyes.
Colorful costumes, movement and props spin and swirl in a movement of attraction and rejection, a theme repeated throughout the performance. Utilizing the entire stage, it’s difficult to know whether to look right or left. Look to the front, but don’t miss what’s happening behind the dancers. There’s always something happening behind “The Doorway.”
The 15-minute intermission offers the chance to stretch your legs, but don’t be late because the ball begins on time and is followed by the post-ball action in the lounge.
Leighton’s company, apprentices and guests visit the study, dining room, powder room, aviary, ballroom, lounge, attic and bedroom. These athletic dancers never missed a step as they moved from one room and story to the next room and another tale.
Friday’s performance ended with a much-deserved standing ovation.
Tickets are available for pre-purchase for the remaining three performances on Oct. 10, 11 and 12. Shows begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. The box office opens at 6:30 p.m., and it’s recommended to arrive early and experience all there is on both sides of “The Doorway.”