Photo by John A. Fleming

There Is Strength in the Collective

A review of five two Dance Company’s repertoire showcase



How do we as humans interact with each other? How do we relate to ourselves and others? What do the ebbs and flows of interpersonal relationships look like? These are the questions at the heart of five two Dance Company’s repertoire, which they recently showcased in its entirety for the first time.

Over the course of a Friday evening at the Mark O’Donnell Theater in Downtown Brooklyn, the New York City-based company performed four pieces of original choreography collaboratively created by the company’s co-founders: Sophie Gray-Gaillard and Olivia Passarelli. Through highly physical contemporary movement, Gray-Gaillard and Passarelli’s work explores themes of identity, performance of the self, and human connection.

The two pieces in the first act focused on the self. A gorgeous duet titled “A portrait of” with Gray-Gaillard and Passarelli set to “Mirrors III: Une barque sur l’ocean” by Maurice Ravel kicked off the show. The dancers wove their bodies together in impressive counterbalances and lifts. It is not uncommon these days to see two women partner together in contemporary dance, but it nevertheless still breaks conventions. Gray-Gaillard and Passarelli demonstrated their cohesion as collaborators in “A portrait of”: Gray-Gaillard’s movement showcased her grounded, occasionally acrobatic foundation while Passarelli complemented that with her balletic, elevated style. As the program noted, the piece drew inspiration from a bell hooks quote:

“The self is not a singular fixed identity, but a constantly evolving multiplicity.”

Keeping this quote in mind, Gray-Gaillard and Passarelli’s complementary movements invoke the often oppositional forces that comprise a whole individual. There is room in the self to be both lofty and cognizant, dreamy and logical.

While the first piece was perhaps the most technically impressive, the second was the most memorable in part because it veered into dance theater territory. All six ensemble members performed in the ironically titled, “The Intermission (and here we go again).” Though it was an ensemble piece, each dancer was intentionally wrapped up in their own personal performance. They moved next to each other but only occasionally with each other. The piece is structured as a rehearsal—though we are not aware of this until it seemingly finishes, and Gray-Gaillard says, “Alright everybody, take five”—and stitches together dancing, acting, and small speaking moments.

At one point, Gray-Gaillard sat in the audience while the rest of the cast lined up at the edge of the black-box stage. Each dancer stared at an individual audience member, gently mimicking their shifts, scratches, and head turns. I was sitting on a cushion practically on the stage and felt both captivated and uncomfortable. This flipped dynamic of the watchers becoming the watched prompted me to contemplate my own performance. What was I performing in my everyday life?   

The second act looked outside of the self to explore human connections. An aptly named trio titled “Weightless” followed the dancers as they pushed off of and pulled into each other, reminiscent of tides. The finale, “If ever,” placed five of the six dancers in rotating relationships, all ultimately linked. While I found myself bopping my head along to much of the music scoring the pieces—an instrumental version of Beach House’s “Space Song” partially scored the first piece, and Billy Joel’s “Zanzibar” was featured in the second—I was more drawn to the first act than the second. Though the pieces in the second act rounded out those in the first, it is telling of the company’s collective strength that the work that stood out to me involved all the dancers.   

Gray-Gaillard and Passarelli have assembled a stellar ensemble in five two. Technically strong dancers can be found at any conservatory across the country, but the four dancing alongside the company’s founders bring more than just their concrete skills to the stage. True passion and love for the craft emanated from their bodies through each leap and port de bras. They approached every extension and tendu with precision and care. As the dancers bowed at curtain call, their sweaty, smiling faces beamed with almost-tangible pride in their work. And they should be proud. five two has a strong company narrative exploring the complexities of both inter- and intrapersonal dynamics through movement, and I look forward to following them and their evolution through their third season.

Check out five two on their website or Instagram.