Last night I went to see Dancing Americas, a dance production performed by students and faculty from the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. This was my first time going to a show focusing solely on dance, and it was amazing.
The show consisted of four distinct dance segments – each unique and beautiful in its own way. The performance began with a MinEvent that showcased modern dance and eclectic music. The musicians sat in front of the stage, and their instruments included a drill, a candy wrapper, a saw, and a cat statue. The music mixed electronic sounds, fragments of melodies, and sound effects from the various household instruments. When the curtain opened, there were only two dancers dressed in leotards on the stage holding a pose. Â As the dance progressed, the number of dancers ranged from just one to a large ensemble. Â In the program it said that the choreographer, Merce Cunningham, believed that music and dance “may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another,” and you could see that philosophy in the dance. The music had no real structure or beat, and the dance had no apparent correlation to the music, but somehow they complemented each other.
The second dance is entitled Towards a Sudden Silence, and was greatly different from the first. Â The curtain opened on a group of dancers dressed in bright colors: some sitting on a bench, some standing, and some sitting on the ground. The choreographer, Melissa Beck, was inspired by poems by Marge Piercy, according to the program, and the performance consisted of 4 movements entitled (I) “My worst enemy is encoded in my body,” (II) “Old punishments still smoulder like a tire dump,” (III) “Of the patience called forth by transition,” and (IV) “Core memory.” A song with lyrics about loneliness accompanied part of the dance, and you could feel the idea of loneliness permeating the performance. The movements of each dancer seemed to suggest ideas of longing and fighting the self. This dance was emotionally charged in a way that invited the audience into the performance.
Tango con la Vida was the third performance of the night. Most of the costumes were reminiscent of traditional Spanish dress, and the music had a strongly Latin feel. This performance included some ballroom dance, though most of the performance was more contemporary. One detail that I found particularly lovely was that, at the beginning of the performance, several of the dancers were wearing half masks made from what appeared to be rose petals. As the dance progressed, the dancers slowly removed one petal at a time and dropped them on the stage. In the program the choreographer, Sandra Torijano, said that “Tango con la Vida is a celebration of life,” and that celebration became greatly apparent at the end of the piece. The dance ended with a dancer running up a flight of steps, jumping in the air, and being caught by the rest of the dancers. The energy of that final move really expressed the idea of celebration and joy.
The final dance of the show is called The Summit, and according to the program, the choreographer, Dianne McIntyre, was inspired by a piece of musicÂ by Dizzy GillespieÂ called “Kush,” “in which he recalls that ancient African civilization also known as Nubia.” This dance was quite possibly my favorite of the evening. This performance was more story driven than the others, and it began with one female dancer on stage in a large cape-type costume. The first dancer seemed to serve as some sort of power-figure in the dance’s story. The dance progressed with two groups of dancers, one group dressed in blues the other in shades of brown and red, who were apparently at odds with each other. Â The original dancer brought one person from the blue group and one person from the brown group together, and the two groups seemed to cooperate for a while, dancing together, but then the two groups separated again, and the dancing grew correspondingly more hectic, until the original dancer collapsed on the stage, and the two groups had to join together again to revive her. The music for this dance seemed to play a large part in the production. Â The band was set up on-stage, and the music was an interesting mix of instrumental jazz, traditional African-inspired melodies, and at the end wordless vocals. The music really complimented the dance and highlighted the emotional complexities of the story.
If you’re curious about the show, you can see pictures from the performance on the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s websiteÂ here, or, better yet, go see one of the two remaining performances for yourself at the Power Center this Saturday at 8:00 pm or Sunday at 2:00 pm. Ticket information is also listed on the SMTD’s website here.