Friday, April 20, 2012

Dance Review: Choreographer's Showcase at the Pasadena Dance Festival

Last night Megill & Company performed as part of the 5th annual Pasadena Dance Festival in the Choreographer's Showcase held at Lineage Performing Arts Center.  The following are a few of my reflections on the wonderful performances given.

The evening of dance opened with a stunning work by Clairobscur Dance Company under the direction of Laurie Sefton entitled Obviam Somes. The five dancers were stunning dressed in blue and sea foam gorgette gowns that elegantly evoked the hospital and surgery themes of the dance.   The excerpts presented were varied and dynamic, at times soothing and serene as well as powerful, dramatic and athletic.  The dancers' technique was exquisite. Sefton's highly defined movements and fluid use of space was punctuated by moments of repetitive rolls and springs that were executed with finesse and power.  Overall I appreciated the narrative of the piece as well as the dynamic vocabulary and excellent use of the dancer's facility.

Nancy Even's Dance Theater presented SHIFT: Shifting Sands - Age vs. Time set to an original score by Blake Colie.  This female duet had a playful balance between modern dance technique and a more theatrical tone.  The female dancers were convincing in their at-odds-characters who battled over the grip of time and age represented with cloaks which they manipulated through the space with ease.  The swirling visual impressions of the cloaks is what will stick with me the most from this piece, although there were powerful moments of partnering between the two dancers as one dominated and controlled the other with a knowing attitude.  The piece ended with a theatrical moment in which one dancer grabbed her discarded cloak before exiting. Was it in resignation? Frustration? Defiance?  Whatever the impulse it was clear that she had been won, and she was not happy. 

87 Dance Productions stood out from the rest of the evening with its use of oral histories (spoken interviews) that underscored thoughtful and well crafted choreography that ranged from beautifully touching to playfully articulate.  Choreographed by Cara Hagan of North Carolina, the duet entitled Words Apart was performed by two sisters. Twins!  But, they were visually and energetically very distinct and offered a depth to the piece that brought additional elements of nostalgia and family dynamics to the work.  The partnering was precise and the storytelling never cliché or overwrought.  The dance and words flowed together seamlessly making for a dance that was perfectly balanced and always engaging. 

Megill & Company (MeCo) was next and of course it wouldn't be fair to go on and on about my own choreography. Plus, I do enough of that in other blog entries. But it was shared with me by Lineage Dance Artistic Director Hillary Thomas that she enjoyed the "punch" of the choreography in the evening's performance.  I agree that the piece was unlike others in tone, quality and design. By contrast it was much more linear and contemporary (jazz) in feel.  So, I was pleased that it didn't get lost in the shuffle.  Although, it has brought me to reconsider my strengths and fears as a choreographer. More to come on that later. . .

Andrew Pearson presented a cool and hip female duet called Have I Made Myself Clear? that incorporated a folding table and two chairs.  The opening of the piece is what I appreciated most about it.  One girl taps her fingers on the plastic table top creating a live pulse for the other dancer to present the thematic material for the dance.  I enjoyed the simplicity of the moment and the gestural qualities of the movement vocabulary.  Playful sequences in which the two dancers interacted with their gestures was engaging and fun.  I enjoyed watching the themes and motifs be reused and varied through out the work.  The one question I had was about the role and purpose of the table and chair that got lost for me in the rest of the choreography after the opening sequence.  Perhaps because the components were spread out on the stage and thus lost their impact as a unit.

Return from HJ Junction by David Popalisky was a refreshing piece in the concert because it truly managed to transport me to another time and place.  In many ways I felt like it was a period drama done in dance.  The trio of dancers were passionate and engaging for me. In this dance more than any other of the evening, I felt like the dancers were truly dancing from the heart, letting technique serve them but not drive them.  In fact, this was the one piece in which I felt "technique" was unimportant and instead I was watching the story and the characters unfold.  This may be haven been due to the more classical modern dance vocabulary and story telling that reminded me of the works of Humphrey and Weidman.  Overall, I enjoyed the musicality, classical modern dance vocabulary and story telling aspects of this work. 

Soloist Lindsey Lollie performed a captivating piece set to spoken word by Paul Matthis.  The Next Step is To Go Back was an experiment in the physics of the body that was engaging and at times confounding to watch. Lollie performed her work with remarkable ease and control. Utilizing the most contemporary release techniques with a fluency I really admire.  Her opening inversion and subtle head movements set up her physical strength and agility that did not wane throughout the piece. 

Brian Moe's newly formed group, Inked Dance, performed a duet entitled Kinetic Residue. True to its name the dancers were in fact "inked" which made me wonder if someone wanted to dance with them who wasn't tattooed, if they would be shunned or forced to ink up! (haha!) But, tattoos aside the male female duet was an excellent study in partnering that was most enjoyable in its daring moments (like the counterbalanced penché with no arms!). The title idea of kinetic residue was less present for me than the more gymnastic partnering was, leaving me to wondering how the two fit together for the choreographer. 

I am so pleased, Megill & Company was able to perform with such outstanding artists.  It is always such a joy to see other people's work which inspires and drives me to explore more deeply my own choreographic endeavors.  Thank you and congratulations to all who choreographed and performed. 

(Please Note: I write this in the spirit of supporting dance and dance artists in the greater LA community. Any questions or concerns I express are merely observational and do not diminish the creative accomplishments of the works presented, but are simple reflections on what I saw and noticed.)

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  1. Hi Beth! I made the music for Lindsey Lollie's piece. Thanks so much for your kind words!

  2. Hey Beth,

    Great to meet you in LA. Thanks for these thoughts on "Return from HJ Junction." You really captured my intentions for the dance- glad it connected for you. I will be contacting with you about a further detail soon. Good thoughts about all the dances as well.