Bravo Dance Review: Wire Monkey

by Peg Mitchel
Published 9/2000
Bravo, the Springfield Journal


NORTHAMPTON- Who would have thought that a performance by a newly formed dance company called Wire Monkey would have been so fascinating? In spite of the heavy downpour on this particular Saturday night, show-goers lined the stairs of the Northampton Center for the Arts to gain entrance to this mysterious event directed and choreographed by Saliq Francis Savage and Jennifer Polins. All seats were filled by the 8:30PM start.

Rather than the presence of the traditional stage, curtain, and backdrop typical of most "dance" performances, there stood an enormous scaffolding structure resembling a jungle gym on wheels and a small version on the side. The show began with the talents of John Sprague, who provided beautiful live music on the piano and various other instruments, in addition to combining his vocal skills with a musical score by Stephen Katz.

The performers included four women and three men dressed in black shirts and dark brown velour pants, soft black slippers, and hand guards. During the next hour, these performers mimicked monkeys through their fluid movements up, down and around the scaffolding bars. Their strong, compact bodies became less human and more animal, as their movements and facial expressions told a story from a monkey's point of view. Despite the challenge of "dancing" from level to level on the bars, they performed with fluidity and control, one movement flowing into another with softness and grace. They hung, slid, and spun, moving both independently of, and intimately close to, fellow “monkeys.” Even their facial expressions reflected the changing moods of the music... dramatic, playful, relaxed, or frightened.

Especially moving was the portion where the stage crew carefully turned the wheeled scaffolding around the floor, as the performers continued their movements. A projector applied the entire image onto the back wall, while live recording captured close-up shots that danced amongst the projected images. The crowd was mesmerized by this audio and video enhancement provided by WebHall.

By the end of this success, the dancers were rewarded with a standing ovation.