Let’s just say I had a delightful evening watching Rhythmically Speaking’s collaborative annual show at the Illusion Theater earlier tonight. With the tumultuous political and social climate we’re encountering today, the show was meant to “serve as a means (of) escape and connection,” an opportunity to have  “respite and (to) re-energize.” I can wholeheartedly commend Erinn Liebhard (Artistic Director) and her cohorts for accomplishing this goal and I will attempt to explain how and WHY I felt this way.

As an artist, but NOT a dancer, I don’t always make a point to see dance pieces, and maybe this is something I need to personally remedy. There is so much involved in creating a dance performance; music, choreography, storytelling, costuming, casting, emotion, energy, and breath. And, unlike a conventional story, in dance, you must rely on your audience’s visceral and/or physical reaction to determine success. So I listened to my body. My feet tapping, head bobbing, a stupid grin from ear to ear, hooting and hollering, heart racing; this evening ran the physical gamut and I loved it. From a lovely opening piece, with uniform costumes, an awesome saxophone quartet soundtrack (former sax player here appreciated that) and an upbeat, inclusive diverse group of women and bodies of all shapes and sizes, I was hooked. Fast forward to the closing piece; with an even larger group of people of all sexes and colors holding hands and acknowledging each other, the variety and inclusiveness was palpable. This is a reasonable one and a half hour show that has something for EVERYone! You have two more chances to see it!

For me, the most notable pieces were A Love Poem for Lonely Prime Numbers, (choreographed and performed by Laura Osterhaus), which is a spoken word story with a beautifully articulated movement base to go with it. This woman can dance! Her pop and lock is on point and it was a whimsical and relatable tale of longing and romance that made me invest in her, and the outcome of this plight between “59, 60 and 61” respectively. Fabulous. An Ode to Rosie Perez (perhaps the most informative piece of the evening for me growing up as a kid in the 90’s...I had NO idea that she was the mastermind behind the FLY GIRLS of In Living Color!!) is such a cool concept and I loved the TBT to LLCoolJ et al...and the multimedia-ness of this experience, including video, audio interview and some damn fine hip hop dance! If I had any complaint, it’s that an homage of this nature and genre needed more presence from people of color to make it believable to me. It’s Minnesota, not the Bronx, and I can sustain my suspension of disbelief BUT, I’m just saying… And THEN...there’s Kaleena Miller...seriously what can you say? The woman is a fantastic furiousness of a tapping phenom and she kills it in her premiere of numb bumb. Wearing a killer hot pink suit, and encouraging audience participation, she and this evening is something you’ll be “too bad soooo sad” to miss.

Aside from the upbeat and inspired dance work exemplified here tonight, there was an awesome inclusion of spoken word by the poet, SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE, who was commissoned to speak to the aforementioned theme “escape and connection.” SEE MORE nails it with two inspired pieces that discuss how we can escape the hand we’re dealt...and then maybe why we shouldn’t. We are the vessels for change and it’s imperative that we see and acknowledge what’s around us, be brave enough to confront it, and attempt to embrace the conflict of our current reality. Very well done sir.

The bottom line; I watched seven different pieces, with people of different ethnicities, ages, body types, sexes and was engaged and ultimately surprised at each new iteration. Dance can be esoteric, but if you just stop trying to figure everything out, allow yourself to sit back and breathe it all in, you’re bound to find your own experience and personal meaning in it. Stop thinking, relax and enjoy. This show is beyond worth it. Congrats to Ms. Liebhard and crew, you’ve done it again. Rhythmically Speaking is a local gem.