William Butler Yeats once wrote, “body swayed to music, O brightening glance, / How can we know the dancer from the dance?” In “Dancer’s Viewpointe,” the spring dance concert at the Rieman Center on March 16 and 17, the dancers were inextricable from the dance.
The production was a conglomeration of pieces by professional and student choreographers selected by a panel in November. The chosen dances were then refined by the student choreographers with the guidance of a panel of choreographic experts.
Opening with “Motus” choreographed by Elizabeth M. Santoro ’01, the concert began with an interpretative flavor that would characterize the entire concert. The dancers were divided into two groups, those who danced jazz and those who danced ballet. The two groups interpreted the techno-influenced music of Tyler Wood according to their chosen style. The jazz group’s movements gave the music a smooth hip-hop feel, while the ballet group gave classical moves a hipper look by conforming them to the undulations of the music. Although a mix of jazz and ballet can be volatile and produce an irritating disjunctiveness, Santoro avoided this visually cacophony by uniting the two with music and shared movements.
The remaining student works also tried to make music visual. Elizabeth N. Waterhouse’s ’01 “Lindy Suite”combined ballet and swing dancing to Duke Ellington after Tchaikovsky into a successful and entertaining combination. Another example of this experimental effort could be seen in Kathy E. Crewe’s ’00 tenuous but intriguing “El Ritmo,” a tap dance to the Santana hit by the same name. The dancers let the rhythm flow through them, and were the focus of the concert. The piece did not use props or sets and instead used only a backdrop and lights. Through the complex lighting and the vivid costumes, the dancers filled the empty space.
The dances were not exclusively set to music, however. In “A Tale Triste” by Maryvone Neptune ’01, the performers moved to a woman’s voice above a synthesizer and base. The angular, stuttering movements reflected the woman’s intonations but were united by the sound of the base. Other pieces utilized a mixture of sound and silence, as with “Shohmyoh.” This piece, choreographed by Ryuji Yamaguchi ’03, centered on the reverberations of drums and chanting. This dual presence of sound and silence perfectly suited the piece’s theme of lives connected through action.
The student pieces pushed the creative limits of movement. In “Findings,” Waterhouse and Yamaguchi invigorated the paus-duex by straining to appear aloof but constantly remaining interconnected. The pair was visually linked through their reciprocal blue and black tops and bottoms, but battled to balance this connection with the aloof music of Mozart. The resulting tension reinterpreted the traditional love duet, making it contemporary and exciting.
Beyond the chosen student works were three dances by guest choreographers. “If I Only Had Time” by Gianni DiMarco, a performer with the Boston Ballet Company, contrasted classical Vivaldi with modern ballet. DiMarco’s movements fluttered to the shifting pace of harpsichord and strings, using all parts of the body. The dancers maneuvered on the floor, in perfect marching blocks, or chaotic ensembles. Through the schizophrenic rhythmic changes and steps, “If I Only Had Time” captured the vivacity of life.
“Cantata” by Tommy Neblett, co-artistic director/choreographer of Prometheus Dance Company, continued the sculpting of classical music with modern movements. The Romanesque costumes accentuated the sway of the performers, but also sharply denoted the disjunction between the body and the music. The dance followed the pace of the music, but inexactly. Slight motions did not coincide with the tempo of the music and the flow of the costumes and arms, although unavoidable slips detracted from the overall piece.
“Change” by Jeff Shade, a Broadway performer trained by Bob Fosse, examined such incalculable moments. With a dramatic, focused plot “Change” searched for the possibility of change through caring. The motions of the dancers attempted to overcome the crushing insecurity of life represented by the dark, sparse stage and eerie piano score by Shade.
The final piece, “No Strings Attached” by Kimberlee R. Garris ’01 and Liz Piccoli seemed a digression as a special appearance from the Crimson Dance Team, but capped the show perfectly. The piece’s lighthearted theme, quick drill maneuvers, and flashy costumes were a pleasant relief from the more esoteric dances. However, more explicitly than its predecessors, “No Strings Attached” captured the position of the dancer as a person that appears bound by formal restrictions, but is liberated by the music and the movement of the piece.
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