The Full Circle Dance Company's Moving Passages: Dances Inspired by Writing relies on speech almost as much as it does on music. The challenge for the program's 13 dancers is to find a rhythm in talking that is analogous to the beats in music.
"As choreographers we have to consciously find the pulse in the voice," explains Donna Jacobs, who founded the company 13 years ago. "As people we do that unconsciously, because it helps us identify who's talking. It's interesting to dance to those rhythms, especially when someone is speaking the words live, as in this one piece, because he does it a little different each time. In that case, we're not counting so much as we are using certain words as cues."
The piece she refers to is "A Stone of Hope," based on a poem of the same name by Baltimore actor Keith Snipes. During a recent rehearsal at the Morton Street Dance Center, the dance school that Jacobs runs in Hampden's Meadow Mill, the bald, muscular actor roams the back of the room. He booms out his reflections on the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument in evangelical tones as if he were channeling King himself. (Indeed Snipes has portrayed King for the Arena Players and at Penn State.) The biracial, overwhelmingly female dancers look upward-as if at King's face-in the early lines, balance like birds on one leg when Snipes speaks of inspiration, and stretch their fingers precariously forward when he mentions "all who dare to dream."
"Keith saw the monument as more than just a statue," says Jacobs, who choreographed this world-premiere piece, "but as a call to go out into our communities and do what Dr. King stood for. So the movement had to have the dancers coming to the monument and then returning to their communities."
Jacobs is just one of the company's eight choreographers who have contributed to the weekend's 11 different pieces, incorporating texts from such sources as William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore artist Jill Scott, and Full Circle dancer Angelica Daniele's memoir of escaping a relationship with a gambling addict.
The Full Circle Dance Company presents Moving Passages: Dances Inspired by Writing at the Baltimore Theatre Project Jan. 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m.