In her career as a performer, Stefanie Batten Bland assembled a CV filled with prestigious dancemakers. She has worked with Bill T. Jones, Lar Lubovitch, Sean Curran, Angelin Preljocaj, Julie Taymor, and Pina Bausch, any of which may have left an imprint on her creative process. In the case of “Embarqued: Stories of Soil” I couldn’t help but feel an echo of Bausch’s Tans Theater Wuppertal, both in its structure and production values. Batten Bland, an award-winning choreographer and filmmaker in her own right, makes good magic with elegant costuming, sculptural props, original sound score, delicious abstract movement, and a mature ensemble of physically striking performers who display vivid individual personalities. If “Embarqued” is missing Bausch’s wicked sense of humor, Batten Bland can be forgiven due to the gravity of her material. “Embarqued” is inspired by the Middle Passage of enslaved Africans to the Americas, a sobering and shameful era that Batten Bland brings to light in a surprisingly engaging way.
Company Stephanie Batten Bland in “Embarqued: Stories of Soil.” Photograph by Tony Turner