For Sport’s Sake, the epic new dance by Karis Sloss that constitutes the entire second half of the program being presented at the Ritz by Eclectic Edge Ensemble, is one of the weirdest spectacles I’ve seen onstage all summer. Yes, that is a compliment, and yes, I did see Cirque du Soleil.
Set to the hoariest chestnuts of sporting song—the National Anthem, “Holding Out for a Hero,” the Notre Dame Victory March, even the Chariots of Fire theme—For Sport’s Sake takes a skeptical but good-humored look at the culture of sports, from fans’ obsession to athletes’ travails to the uneasy conflation of national pride and team pride. It doesn’t say anything particularly new or provocative about the subject, but it’s not meant to be a dissertation: it’s a dance, and it’s a ridiculously fun one at that.
|for sport’s sake, presented through july 18 at the ritz theater. for information and tickets ($15), see ritztheaterfoundation.org|
Choreographer Sloss and her dancers embrace the sporting world’s pageantry and histrionics, which turn out to fit very well with the athletic, exuberant dance at which the company excels. If you’re new to the world of contemporary dance, you’ll find For Sport’s Sake to be amusing and accessible; if you’re a seasoned culture vulture, you’ll enjoy the tight, disciplined choreography and performances and will also (secretly or not) appreciate the chance to watch badass ribbon-twirling without a single twinge of guilt.
It’s not all fun and games, though: the first half of the evening’s program includes three new pieces by Eclectic Edge artistic director Sloss—Foot in Mouth, Diffusion, and Common Ground—and At the End of the Day, a premiere by Zoe Sealy. (Sealy is a staple of the local dance scene who has mentored legions of choreographers, Sloss included.) All four of the pieces are strong—with remarkably tight ensemble work by the Eclectic Edge corps, extremely high-level performance for a company so small that a donation in the lowest of three-figure amounts would put you into their top donor category—but Sloss’s pieces are dryer than Sealy’s, more emotionally ambiguous and less explicitly narrative. After the crisp trio by Sloss, At the End of the Day felt almost cheesy with its open displays of emotion and classic partnering…until a dancer who had gone off and left his partner bereft came running back onstage into her arms, and all of a sudden I wanted to stand and cheer. Go, team!