Dancing Outside The Box: Movimento Project Brings Innovative Program To Harwich

By: Ellen Chahey

Topics: Arts

Diana Kenney in “UnBox.” JULIA CUMES PHOTO

Think of a box. Any box will do: a beautiful jewel box, a commuter train, a cardboard moving crate, even the kind of box they use to bury people.

Now think outside the box.

That’s what a troupe of about two dozen dancers of all ages will be doing on the evenings of Sept. 19, 20, and 21 at the Cape Cod Theatre Company, home of the Harwich Junior Theatre. A statement from the Movimento Project promises that the performance, “UnBox,” will present “an immersion experience in the nature and artifice, delimiting and supporting role that boxes offer our comparatively frail and flexible, fluid and free human anatomy, personality, and creativity,” danced to live music.

The troupe, now in its fifth season, and many of the works it performs, are the brainchild of Leda Muhana. She has lived on-Cape for five years and came here from Bahia, Brazil.

“I was lucky to live there,” she said, because the city is the home of the dance school of the Federal University of Bahia. Muhana started there as a student in both the performance and pedagogy departments, and wound up spending her career there as a professor and, eventually, director. She still invites two or three Brazilian teachers to the Cape each year to exchange ideas and classes. “I welcome them into my home,” which she shares with her husband in Brewster.

“From the first, I was interested in contemporary dance,” she said, although like so many youngsters, she began with ballet at the age of 7. The university dance school was housed on a campus of great natural beauty, and she encouraged her students to choreograph pieces specific to the gardens, streams, and other outdoor features around them.

“We did something similar in Wellfleet,” she recalled. That performance took place at Preservation Hall, a former church. It began in the building’s front yard on busy Main Street, moved indoors to explore various interior spaces, and ended in the spacious back yard. “I’ve always been interested in exploring different ways of movement in different environments,” she said.

“UnBox” represents the Movimento Project’s second appearance in Harwich. It will feature choreography by Muhana, Diana Kenney and some Brazilian teachers. “But I can’t divide choreographers and dancers—everyone contributes ideas,” she said.

Muhana said she has choreographed dances in boxes before. “It’s powerful,” she said of the idea, because “the box is the basis of where we sit, lie down, even commute.”

She would like to see much, much more dance on the Cape. “There’s a need for more dance on the Cape…I would love partnerships,” not only with other dance people but also with community resources and events. Why not, she wondered aloud, dance at the farmers’ markets?

“UnBox” has in its cast two children, ages 5 and 7. “I cannot accept that some kids are growing up here and not having contact with dance,” she said. That is one reason why the troupe is working to expand what, in a statement, they call “an emerging program of artistic residencies, public workshops and multiple performances throughout the year in many local venues.”

Nina Schuessler, producing director of the Harwich theater, said of Movimento, “They’re a phenomenal dance troupe and this is one of the most exciting dance performances I’ve seen.” She praised the choreography as “world class…fascinating, dynamic, and very modern.”

Muhana is no stranger to the theater, Schuessler said. Not only did the Movimento Project perform there last year, but Muhana also choreographed the Ancients, a kind of chorus in the original production of “Wrinkles,” a musical about older women. The play is now being reworked, said Muhana.

“UnBox” will be performed at the theatre at 105 Division St. in Harwich at 7:30 on Sept. 19, 20, and 21. Tickets are $20. The phone number is 508-432-2002, and the website is capecodtheatrecompany.org