Under a luna negra | Dance Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Under a luna negra 

Fernando Melo makes the simple strange in Luna Negra Dance Theater's "Reencuentros"

Soap opera meets samba in Bate

Soap opera meets samba in Bate

Cheryl Mann

A vending machine/jukebox from another planet dominates Walk-In, Fernando Melo's new ensemble work for Luna Negra Dance Theater. It looks and sounds surreal. But then everything in the piece, including the set's floor-to-ceiling psychedelic wallpaper, is a bit off. Aiming to explore the mental states behind daily routines, Melo says he started with the simple, mundane movements of everyday life, but made them different—very different in some cases. Among the many creepy overlaps between the human and the mechanical in Walk-In: soda cans rolling across the floor, echoing the whirling solo that opens the piece, and dancers manipulating one another as if they were inanimate objects. A man, for instance, carelessly tosses a woman, who remains frozen in a seated position even though she's long since left the chair in which she was sitting.

Walk-In is part of LNDT's "Reencuentros" ("Reunions"), which indeed reunites the company with Melo, a Brazilian native who's been working in Europe since he was 16. In 2010, Melo set his Bate ("Heartbeat")—a fanciful contemplation of the male psyche, influenced by samba and Brazilian soap operas—on the company. That's also on this program, along with 18 + 1, a "little birthday party" of a dance by LNDT artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, celebrating his 19 years as a choreographer.

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