Charleston has become a popular destination for visitors from around the world. Many are inspired to stay, perhaps because of the city's charm and beauty. But the force that draws people in is derived from its complexity. The city has a soul.
And Annex Dance Company's “Trinity,” presented at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, gives its audience a peek into Charleston’s soul. The work is the consequence of a collaboration between Annex Dance (Kristin Alexander, Cathy Cabaniss and Julie DeLizza) and The Atlas Trio (pianist Laura Ball, violinist Rachael Kistler and cellist Courtney Sharp).
The three musicians and three dancers use the spiritually-themed works of three American composers — Henry Cowell, Charles Ives and Samuel Barber — to paint a picture for the crowd. With the mature light of an evening sun beaming in, the trio began with “At the River,” sweet and almost ethereal, like the opening to a fairy tale. When the first dancer — Alexander, Annex Dance's artistic director — enters, she brings a necessary tension into the room.
Alexander conveys the struggle of a person, or a city, embroiled in a battle. Movements that beg to flow are forced into angles. Her face is beautifully placid, even as her body seems to vacillate between resistance and surrender. With the emblematic Pineapple Fountain gushing in the background, Fort Sumter further in the distance, and the melodies from the Atlas Trio steadily deepening the mood, the performance begins to feel of a place, of Charleston.
When Cabaniss and DeLizza emerge, the three dancers begin an interplay that lasts for the better part of an hour. They reflect hymns and fugues in movement and express undulating emotion. Sometimes they are playful, sometimes tortured, sometimes sensual, sometimes dancing in solitude. At moments they connect and fold into one another, then scatter gracefully, demonstrating the task of every soul: to both embrace and break away from the past.
The performance ends on a high. The dancers move joyfully and in unison to “The Revival," the third movement of Ives' Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano. There is a levity and hopefulness to this closing that seems to bode well for the Holy City. As the music ends, the dancers gaze slightly upward, signaling our collective ascension.
The final performance of “Trinity” is 6 p.m. Saturday, June 3.
Reviewer Carmen Harris is a dancer and writer in Charleston.