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Jill Randall

I want to thank choreographer Molly Heller, musician/composer Michael Wall, and the 6 stellar dancers for this gift. I laughed, I smiled, and I felt the energy, amplification, and exhaustion in my own body. (Talk about kinesthetic empathy and the phenomonology of dance! The real, lived experience....the audience/performer shared experience...)

My word bank afterwards, right now, includes: expose/exposure, release to the universe, SEE, whole body/wholehearted commitment, sweat, stumble, precarious holding, constant vibration/agitation, and the VIBRANCY that dancing can be.

Imagery-wise....I was really moved by the ending section, when the dancers placed large handmade, illuminated animal masks upon their heads. And the stage lights are dimmed.

I saw my childhood picture books there, in person and in front of me. I saw the animals of the forest, the animals of the sea, the animals that told stories that had magic, wonder, wander, and simplicity in them. And simplicity isn't bad....it is sought after as adults. To have life's lights dimmed a wee bit and the story of the day to be the main focus, not the endless distractions...or multitasking...or the massive, disjointed, and harried "to do list." Thank you for ending the show with the gift and offering to us of an ounce of calm and an ounce of magic.

I will remember "very vary" for a long time.

Jill Randall, Artistic Director of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center

Jessica Damon

Seamless transitions between pedestrian and full intensity movement.
I found myself longing for a bridge between the catharsis of the performers and my seat in the audience.

Jessica Damon, independent dance artist

KJ Dahlaw

The work was deeply embodied. It felt alive.

The human/animal/creature exposed in full absurdity, vulnerability, curiosity, and delight.

KJ Dahlaw, MFA in dance grad student, dance artist.

Mira-Lisa Katz, Independent Dance Artist and Writer

Molly Heller's "Very Vary" seemed to play with movement initiation, gaze/focus, multitasking, and narrative/biography in ways that felt super animated and fresh. I greatly appreciated how Molly's six dancers sensitively embodied ensemble movement while inflecting it with their own storied bodies and histories. This kaleidoscopic effect, of zooming in and out between the personal and the social, created depth and vibrancy for me as a viewer of this highly original work.

Rachel Caldwell

Molly Heller’s Very Vary kept me hooked from the moment the six dancers walked into the studio to the second the door shut behind them. I haven’t seen that level of performance quality in ages. Every word, every gesture and every quirky facial expression was executed with the utmost commitment. These dancers were utterly fearless! Moments of profound beauty were juxtaposed with instances of hilarity. Choreographic sections and music selections that you’d expect to clash were threaded together seamlessly. Among my many reactions, I felt excited, amused, challenged and inspired by Very Vary. I’m so glad I saw it!

Rachel Caldwell, Contributing Editor - Dance Teacher magazine

Ann DiFruscia

Very Vary from the ground up, exploded with a bold physicality and energy that virtually knocked my socks off. Flawless execution of impossible adeptness, power, skill that was borne out of each dancer's full-throttle devotion & embodiment of their own story and truth. Even as I write this, the words come easily - just reporting what was present and felt.

The work is a wild journey through layers of moment-to-moment unfoldings of vivid or imagined life. Present & past are merged. Nothing is linear; everything is realized, radical, tender, raw. Entrails are expelled and consumed, lavished, inhaled. The sheer, exquisite, delicate, howling, human is experienced in 3-D-like fashion. A kaleidoscope of living souls dissolve and abandon all reason, definition, or meaning - desiring only their simplest and truest animal selves as they slither out the door into the night air.

Unique and astounding work that now resides in a tiny place in my chest. Like a burning ember - always aglow.

Ann DiFruscia, independent dance artist & Board Member of SADC

Scotty Hardwig

From beginning to end, Molly Heller's "Very Vary" was a tour de force of pure human expression, a journey through the constantly morphing emotional landscapes of six phenomenal performers. The beauty of the work was held in its subtlety and seamlessness, and in the juxtaposition of ecstatic (or often agonizing) freedom to the well-crafted spatiality and structure of the piece, like a chaotic wilderness of psyche contained but crackling against the edges of Heller's superbly crafted choreographic container.

a bit of rambling moments:

So many moments linger for me, from the tentative entrance of the ensemble followed by the riotous movement section set to the Pixies' "Where is My Mind?" (Nick Blaylock jamming out on his air guitar was especially special) to two masterfully technical solos performed by Yebel Gallegos and Melissa Younker. They both moved with from a graceful wide presence, and held their their stillnesses like moments of prayer, or grief. Florian Alberge and Nick Blaylock's "Rocket Man" duet was also hilarious, with perfect slapstick timing poking and mime-slapping one another punctuated by athletic circular lifts and laughter-filled jumps -- almost Chaplin-esque in tone. At one moment, Alberge howls and barks with shocking verisimilitude to a wolf over two prone figures, hinting at the cracks in our social composure and the animals underneath. Marissa Mooney was also a powerful presence in this work, her minute facial expressions and way of speaking brought a surreal comedy to each moment, as if she moved and spoke from a reality apart. Hearing her scream at us: "What? I'm French, and I'm yelling. In English!" was one of those life gems that made me wonder why I'm not always so overjoyed when someone screams at me. Originally spoken by Florian, the repeat of this text brought up the compositional idea of theme and variation that Heller uses so well in this piece (perhaps also an inspiration for the title's "Vary"), but also revealed so much about life through its repetition. We see the words differently when inhabited by a different performer, a new identity revealed through the same -- how many times do we see or say something that is the same as before? And yet somehow new if we shift our perspective, change our way of looking, or our state of being. This piece to me felt like a study in state of being; when the dancers all came forward shouting a cacophony of identifiers to the audience "I am sensitive... I am a mother ... I am a sister .. I am sad in the winter when it snows ... I am scared of the sandstorms...", it all blurred together into a wash of sound, leaving me with a thought and a feeling: Who am I? What's inside underneath, what emotional wilderness is there to uncover? Who are we really?

At the end, the animals departed in their glowing hats, playing on invisible flutes and mandolins, like the ending of a fairy tale as Michael Wall's gorgeous live music sent us gently off into the night. It was a moment of myth and fable, like a final parade marking finality to the legend of "us" -- maybe it is better to wonder than to know, better to ask than to answer. After all, we can feel, and we can imagine.

- Scotty Hardwig // www.hardwigDance.com

Cathleen Young

I’m late with my comments, mostly because Very Vary affected me deeply and unexpectedly, and it’s taken a while to sort, let alone say anything concisely. Since a favorite book just reminded me about the goodness in seeing things freshly, I’ll follow up there, subjective as it is.

I am an aging (old!) visual artist who didn’t make her living practicing art, nor have i followed dance very actively. Alas. Right up until the performance, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Well, as the performance unfolded, I was taken aback, increasingly so, by the force of expression, its immediacy, and by the dancers’ physical power and energy. I found Very Vary extraordinarily primal ~ a truth-telling carefully aimed, like a rebuke of persona, of “normal” conduct. The music was exquisitely particular, also in the best way: everything background music isn’t. The ending was poignant, a little dreamlike: another kind of window onto what we forget. Walking home afterwards, my mind stayed there. The familiar world was different, though i wasn’t sure how. Since I wanted to reflect for a while longer, once home, I drank some water, turned off the phone, then just sat and remembered and felt.

The old poetry i read this morning tripped a little switch. It reminded me of how lucky I was ~ even old and too naive about dance ~ to have seen Very Vary. Writing about his travels, the Japanese poet Bashō had said “Nothing’s worth noting that isn’t seen with fresh eyes.” He also named his immense joy in meeting people who’d given their lives to search for truth and excellence in art. Congratulations and sincerest thanks to you, each one and all. I bow with Bashō, who truly understood your passion for artistic excellence, which matters hugely and always will.

Cat Young, first-time audience member

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