Caleb Teicher understands the power of percussion, the sway and thrall of rhythm. The volume was turned up at Rivers Green on Saturday night, with Ella Fitzgerald’s unleashed scat vocals and beatbox powerhouse Chris Celiz’s hypnotic thunder setting energetic vibes, and good thing it was. Because Caleb Teicher & Co. proved just how articulate the body’s lyrical, emotive expansiveness can be.
Teicher’s expertise is tap, but the company’s talent is demonstrating how relevant, innovative and embracing that particular genre of dance really is. The upshot is that Spoleto Festival USA audiences are in for a treat — our hunger for live, exuberant dance is getting satiated thanks to the New York-based dance company’s presentation of two works, Meet Ella and Bzzzz, at the new Rivers Green, continuing through Wednesday.
The freshness of this troupe was on full display, from innovative choreography to Teicher’s chummy, understated rapport with the audience, beginning from the company founder’s first introduction of the program line-up to every time they glided, ran, bounded, tapped, sashayed on stage. Humor was woven throughout, adding further lightness to the amazingly light-on-their feet dancing. It was evident that Teicher and crew, including Macy Sullivan and Gaby Cook in the first jazz-swing suite and the full six-member ensemble in the beaty Bzzzz, were having a blast, which made it impossible for the audience not too as well.
I loved the company’s diversity — bodies of all shapes and ethnicities, in simple, understated street-wear costumes. Personalities seem to shine through, and their authentic effervescence added to the jubilance of the beautifully executed movement and sound. And finally, a word about the setting. A big standing ovation to the Spoleto team for creating yet another stunning performance space to add to the festival’s already impressive venue line-up.
The outdoor stage and rows of ample, well-spaced seating have been brilliantly nestled in the courtyard behind the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. Flanked by faux-brick columns and walls fabricated by the festival’s set-shop, the stage and seating look as if they’ve always been there and had been artfully designed just for this space, not jerry-rigged as a pandemic pivot. A cool, breezy evening further enhanced the ambiance (I’m sure for the dancers as well). At first I wondered why they didn’t enclose the back of the stage with a screen of some sort, as I expected passing cars along Coming Street would detract, but I came to appreciate the openness as part of the experience. It felt like Spoleto was truly infusing the city and her streets with art — why shouldn’t passers-by get to see a glimpse?
As we exited the lovely venue and walked (OK, semi-tap danced) across the street and through College Green, we were treated to saxophone wails of the New Orleans jazz concert coming from the Cistern. The city felt like one big serenade. Pure Spoleto magic.