Imagine: It's the last day of the conference. . . Your mind is fried. Your body achy from siting and watching so many hours in marginally comfortable theater seats. At this point you have seen nearly 70 dances in three days. And, there is one more informal concert with 7 pieces. Can you do it?
Well, I am certainly glad I did because this concert had outstanding choreography (just like the last two informal showings) and was out of "the box" in a way that sent me home from the concert brimming with creative ideas and new insights.
The show opened with a male solo, entitled Zimoy, choreographed and performed by UC Irvine's Andrew Hallenbeck . The surprise of the piece was not his passion, nor his technique, nor beautiful physique, but the fact that beyond all of that he was wearing pointe shoes. In the entire festival only 2 people wore pointe shoes, One male. One female. That is what I call gender equality. Hallenbeck was raw, connected and fearless. His ability to combine masculine athleticism with the pointe shoe without it necessarily being a direct statement on sexuality or gender impressed me. Once I got over the initial surprise of his wearing pointes (and wearing them so well), I was drawn into his choices of running on the pointes of the shoes, dropping over the edges of the box in modern falls and his stunning exit with hands bound behind his back as he traipsed off in his animalistic walk on pointe. This student took a risk. I have certainly seen men in pointe shoes before (Ballet Trockadero blows my mind with it), but men don't typically train in this way at univerities which means he probably had to make the discoveries on his own time, in his own way. That is what I found so impressive.
University of Oregon charmed me again with a female duet, I'm a Lady, How 'Bout You, choreographed and performed by Linnea Birdwell and Olivia Shaw. I am so pleased that U of Oregon attended, because they brought a wonderfully fresh perspective and value set to the festival. This work was another exquisitely crafted, image rich performance, that caught and maintained my attention without the use of flash or virtuosity. These polka dotted dressed women were committed in their staggering "high heeled" walks as well as the simple straightening of their skirts. It was a simple joy for me.
Cal Poly Pomona presented another student choreographed solo, Dissension to Hostility, by Chris Dela Cruz. There is something about this mover that I could watch for hours without boring. And, while he was "dancing," I call him a mover because there was something beyond the traditional technique, a rawness and honesty that spoke to me beyond the language of dance. I didn't care about a his execution of classical technique, I was invested in his art choices. I felt each action was clearly motivated and the concept manifested. The tattooed cross on his back, was not lost on my interpretation of the work that also included a clasped handed pray like reach to the sky. The final fall backward, without protection or evident catching of himself literally made me and other members gasp with shock.
Dance Professor, Alicia Guy presented a beautifully performed contemporary jazz piece called Changes. This quartet was exquisitely performed and is a testament to the strength of Chapman University's training program. It was also one of the few contemporary jazz pieces in the festival. Her piece reminded me of the interesting (and seemingly continual) disconnect between college dance and the commercial dance world. Art dance and commercial dance have so much cross over yet, there were very few truly contemporary jazz pieces presented. Typically the adjudicators (and I am generalizing here regarding the many adjudicators I have heard over the years) find the use of pop music a weak compositional choice because the words are driving, they have predetermined associations, and are often too short to create a compositional arc that suits the needs of a dance. But, contemporary jazz (often referred to as contemporary-much to the modern contemporary dancers dismay) is what is in trend right now and there are jobs for contemporary dancers and dance instructors. I was very pleased to see such a strong work both in terms of movement invention, meaning making and compositional integrity to represent this genre.
CSU Los Angeles presented a duet entitle Icebergs, choreographed by Laurdes Mack (who also performed in the work). This piece had a clear message of the conflict between music box, ballerina, femininity and the raw, earthy, female energy that reminded me strongly of the Indian goddess Kali (the goddess of destruction). I loved the Kali character's oozing entrance on the floor. It established the disparity between the characters instantly. I did have a few questions regarding the relationship of the characters when they danced in unison. Because they had been so successfully presented in contrast to each other, the unison didn't quite fit for me. But, the issue of identity was powerful and looking back at the rest of the concert brought to my attention just how important the theme of identity is for so many choreographers and especially student choreographers who are just discovering their voices in their lives and in their art. Ultimately this theme of self discovery is what I saw in this piece, and I am excited to see how this student choreographer continues to grow and blossom.
El Camino College (the host of the festival) presented Mychal Harris's Judgement Day, an ensemble piece that was energetic and athletic. I loved the racial diversity within this cast. Concert dance is still a predominantly "white" art form, in part because of the white European culture and in part because of social economic trends in California. It was so refreshing to see such a mixed cast of stunning dancers. The movements were aggressive and powerful. The most resonant moments for me were those of personal vocabulary rather than traditional concert dance movements. There was a West African inspired moment that I can still visualize-- or rather feel. It was in this moment that I felt the dancers owned their performance. In contrast, the balletic port de bras (movement of the arms) also highlighted the graceful self power of these dancers. My question lies in the idea of judgement. I wondered who is judging? What is being judged? This could have been a performance about spiritual salvation or social judgement. Either offers a provocative inquiry for the viewer.
The final piece!
UC San Diego (if I remember correctly) does not often attend ACDFA, so I was so pleased to see them in the showing. Kristianne Salcines performed in her trio entitled Paradigm Shift. And, I want to thank her for the helpful title, because it let me get into the piece, to shift my set of expectations and simply allow the piece to wash over me in waves of imagery, movement and play. I should note that this was the ONLY piece in the entire festival that was performed entirely to silence. I felt very much like I was watching the dancers inside a studio, because of the dancers' easy focus and personal investment in the movement, I even felt a little voyeuristic at times. The fall of the girl onto the stage was perhaps the most exciting entrance of the entire festival. The rocking motifs were very clear, although their nature was not. The rocks seemed to lead to each dancers' personal discovery of release in the joints and body over the duration f the piece which seemed logical. This piece required the audience to reevaluate their value set of dance and performance, and for that I was incredibly grateful. Plus, I love seeing beautiful people allowing themselves to be awkward or even "ugly." Salcines has an apparent intellectualism in her work that gave me freedom as an audience member to question, and analyze the nature of her intention. What I walked away with was a commentary on current dance trends and accepted value sets. "We're the last piece." A dancer spoke the audience. And, what a wonderful message to send us home with.
Did you see the concert? What were your reactions? Share your feedback in
the comment box below!
Missed the other rogue reviews for the baja region festival? Check them out as well.
Informal Concert #1
Informal Concert #2
Also, don't forget to sign up and follow this blog for more dance
writing and reviews and my musings about life and being an artist.