Review: Dancers Offer Up Viewpoint

ArtsMonday Dance Review

Dancers’ Viewpointe IV

Rieman Center, April 10-12

Dance, as an abstract form of expression, is at once clear with its suggestive bodily motion, yet in its own manner incomprehensible. The paradoxical nature of this art form was aptly demonstrated during Dancer’s Viewpointe III: An Evening of Premieres. Classical ballet is no different in this sense, except that the human urgency is pushed under the surface, and the performance is layered with requisite grace and poise. The eight originally choreographed dance vignettes in Viewpointe, most appropriately categorized as modern dance, shone with immediacy, purpose and undeniable skill.

Of the eight dance pieces, four were choreographed by professional artists and the others by undergraduates. Each work drew inspiration from a piece or compilation of music as an interpretive starting point for the exploration of a host of themes of importance to the artist and the world.

The performance began with a piece titled “Groove for Mr. Charlie,” choreographed by Adrienne Hawkins and dedicated to the soul-jazz organist Charles Earland whose music served as the piece’s focal point. The jazzy temperament motivated the quick movement of the six dancers whose unison and disunison was expertly executed.


The colors of “Groove” were followed by “Conformity” by Bradford Backus ’03 with music by Samuel Barber. As might be expected, all six dancers were dressed in non-descript black and white and moved in a machine-like trance for parts of the piece. The title was well-represented in the dance and the music used in conjunction to the sometimes harsh movement allowed for subjective interpretation by each viewer on the broad range of what the piece’s title might denote.

The third work, “Interiors”, was perhaps the most fascinating of the night in its integration of various divergent art forms. Choreographer Jetta G. Martin ’05 used segments of music from disparate styles, showcasing artists from John Coltrane to Universal Healing. The collaboration did not end with the music; Martin had free verse poetry recited and an a cappella solo performed on stage as accompaniment for the dancers in a halo of blue light.

The mélange of accompaniment styles, particularly the combination of poetry and melancholy song, created an unusual and interesting context for the performance. As the ear heard words of the poem or song, the eye immediately sought a connection with the dancers’ movement. But connections are not ordinarily difficult to find in the abstract world of dance, and “Interiors” was no exception with its dimly veiled aura and somewhat artificial development.

One piece, entitled “Silence,” was anything but. Choreographed by Ryuji Yamaguchi ’03, “Silence” was accompanied by Autechre’s “Corc” and was the only work to elicit laughter from the audience. The piece began in silence with a single dancer slithering slowly up the stage. Other dancers subsequently approached and nearly sat on her, pushing her out of the way again and again. It was then revealed that two of the four dancers, one male and one female, were blindfolded. When they paired off with the other two without blindfolds, the dynamic on stage became whimsical and wrought with uncertainty.

“Breathe”—the vignette which capped the evening—was choreographed by Jodi Leigh Allen and set to a Cantata Mundi by Karl Jenkins. The stage floor was laid bare for this performance and the lights focused in on the dancers. The piece was the largest of the compilation with ten dancers dressed in minimal tarzan-like costume. Elements of the wild were revealed elsewhere in the dancing, particularly when the dancers were grouped close to each other and moved in unison in an almost mob-like fashion. Elemental in its simplicity, “Breathe” brought the coordination of bodies and music to a pure level, unadorned by complex sets or costumes.

Viewpointe III, directed by Elizabeth Bergmann and produced by Susan Larson from the Office for the Arts’ dance program, is a barrage for the eyes, combining so many different forms of dance and styles of music. It is a superbly entertaining and fascinating show in its incredible variety of contexts and tremendous execution.

—Crimson Arts dance critic Julie S. Greenberg can be reached at jsgreenb@fas