Hot topics | Coronavirus pandemic

La Palomba/Ascending is a moving, and ultimately inspiring, tale of rebirth and change

La Palomba/Ascending is a moving, and ultimately inspiring, tale of rebirth and change

NewPORT, R.I. Some of us have never forgotten the image of people falling out of the Twin Towers on 9/11. And even more of us have imagined, over and over, what it was like for the people trapped inside the buildings.

In the stunning and incredibly moving multimedia dance performance La Palomba/Ascending, presented by Island Moving Company, Newport, Oct. 15 and 16, all of that and much more is realized in this beautiful and moving dance piece. The work was written and choreographed by Artistic Director Miki Ohlsen and Associate Artist Director Danielle Genest, in collaboration with Simona De Tullio, of Breathing Art Company, Bari, Italy, with whom IMC has worked for the past four years.

Island Moving Company is known for its outdoor shows, such as the lawns of the Newport mansions and the tunnels in Fort Adams. Ohlsen's team was inspired to create a dance piece in La Palomba Sculpture Park, built in an abandoned quarry, with Antonio Paradiso' discarded 9/11 debris, and then to take it home to Newport on an outdoor stage at the Great Friends Meeting House.

La Palomba has eight scenes, each with evocative titles and epigraphs, starting with Unforeseen, continuing through Frantic Search and Collective Sorrow, and ending with Souls Transcending. It is neither a close narrative nor merely religious synthesis of its themes.

It is nevertheless, a beautiful example of tragedy transforming into art. The dancers movements tug at our memories of shattered and tilted buildings as well as leaning and blown people, holding onto one another, lifting one other up, seeking support from one body to another or even the grasp of one hand reaching for the outstretched arm or leg of another person.

In the opening scene, the dancers appear to be seeking escape: pushing the air out in front of them, running around each other, kickout, looking one direction, then another, sometimes crouched with one arm on a knee, and then an arm stretched overhead.

Nevertheless, the movement never becomes melodramatic. The dancers, in white bicycle-length shorts and sleeveless tops with white bikinis and white skirts on, are effortlessly flowing, inside and around each other, with here a danceer lifted above the crowd and there. , here, i have mastered 'one-handed cartwheeling' and here is a stunning leap.

And there are quieter sequences, like in Between Two Worlds. Five bodies are placed in a corner, and this begins and ends with five bodies in the corner. Each is pushed to his or her feet to dance with one another and then gently replaced in the motionless configuration.

Katie Moorhead and Gregory Tyndall's heart-rending pas de deux, to Max Richter' s music, is incorporated within that scene, which in a way is the denouement of the piece as if it were the whole. From the initial shock of the event to an urgent sense of disbelief in who was in the crushed Towers, theres been a build-up to the point where one is approaching death immediately, beginning to accept it and leaving loved one behind.

Film sequences within the 400-foot-deep tuff quarry are interspersed with the in-person dancers. Many of the sculptures have doves outlined in their rusted metal. In one of the last film scenes, the dancers are looking over a gulf to men in long-sleeved white shirts and long white pants, as part of The Lost scene in the film.

In the very last scene, there is a film of quick close-ups of the dancers faces, reminding us of each of our living beings within this tale of crashing airplanes and thundering metal. The whole troupe stands at the front of the stage, encircled by the side-lighting (which has been so effective all along by Stephen Petrilli), and they join in a frantic motion of arms reaching upwards, legs moving back and forth. It was a moment of acceptance, peace, and hope that was unforgettable, as the epigraph puts it.


Island Moving Company presents this event. Oct. 15, 16 and 17 are scheduled for The Great Friends Meeting House, 21 Farewell St., Newport, R.I. 401-847-4470, $35-$45, 410-848-447, or islandmovingco,

You may also like: