When four couples share a rare moment of celebration to the glorious sounds of the Sacred Harp Singers, Roper suddenly appears within their circle. There’s no escaping her from that point on. She asserts her dominance in a commanding solo, and then claims the innocently youthful Jon Michael Schert. A craggy voice sings, asking to be spared for one more year; but there is no mercy—Schert’s lifeless figure slides out from under Roper’s skirt.”
Dressed in vintage clothes, the dancers leapt and loved their way through life. They mourned a dead friend, they wooed one another. When Alison Roper appeared as Death on stage, the tone of the dance didn’t change much. Life simply went on. Dressed in a sleek red ball gown cut away in the front, she moved with grace and purpose, beautiful and apart and ominous. Sleight of hand here, steely look there, she harvested souls with impersonal poise.
Everything changed with her solo to Ralph Stanley’s “I’ll Remember You in My Prayers.” An incongruous song for a dance by death, but this is no stereotypical grim reaper. With arms swinging and legs stomping in a pagan almost-tantrum, she showed desire and lust for what she could never have: life.
Still, she was a sneaky bitch – part siren, part warden – stepping between couples and moving one off to the side, toward their demise. But towards the end of the piece she was dancing with them, too, in fleeting moments, unable to help herself. She, too, knows about appetite, about need.
The 11-song dance ended in a crescendo of Stanley’s “O Death.” Joined by company member John Michael Schert, Roper egged him on. Her movements made promises, but despite moments of surrender, he never gave himself over completely. It didn’t matter; Death was in control. In this divine game of cat and mouse, only one creature can reign. Few are ever ready to cross that line. And so in a whirl of hope and despair, Schert was sucked into Death, only to be belched out an inert corpse at the feet of the viciously beautiful monster
The audience was both stunned and appreciative, and stood in ovation of the dance troupe.”