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Undergraduates cap schooling with recital

by Amy Kingsley

The figures hustled onstage in the darkness like disciplined ghosts, hitting their marks in the pitch – three African-American females wearing white shifts with hair pulled back from their fresh faces.

The stage lights ignited, stage right first then moving left, so that each dancer had her moment in the spotlight. Soon after, the dance began in earnest: The women ricocheted off one another, locked and unlocked in fluid entanglements of extremities. More often than not, the trio moved as one, a unit that reconfigured itself in the manner of a sophisticated, graceful robot. It all unfolded, breathtakingly, to the smooth electro-pop of Sia.

The piece was the second in a show titled Next Stop… Reality, the 2007 installment of thesis performances choreographed by BFA candidates in the department of dance at UNCG. Its choreography was credited to one Trinada Oliver, who also danced in the piece alongside Kia Nicole Cunningham and Teran Brown.

Cross-pollination was in evidence throughout the hour-and-a-half program. Choreographers danced and edited scores, and dancers designed lights. In the opening piece, choreographer Heather Glasgow Doyle pieced together tunes by the everybodyfields and Dirty Three, and then remixed them for a performance by a five-person ensemble. It was an ambitious piece featuring both a moderately large cast and a long score.

Joel Stroup, whose bio indicates a background in hip-hop dance as well as ballet, jazz and modern, directed the third piece, a duet between Sarah Boyack and Elisa Werner that featured video projection. The women maintained an antiseptic distance throughout most of the dance, a display of variety from its communal predecessor. The dancers reinforced a sort of modern, restrained feel with costumes featuring bindings made of colored tissue.

Behind them the screen projected grainy, slow-motion images of the women onstage, a device that in film class would have been some sort of meta-critique of media culture.

Maiya Silver, recipient of a choreography fellowship at UNCG, directed the final piece before intermission, a duet that upended the whole notion of dance as beauty. In fact, her piece, “sLow: SOULLOW SOLO” was almost painful to watch. One of the characters flops helplessly, like a tangled marionette, while the other pirouettes with ease.

The audience’s attention focuses on the dancer in the foreground who struggles to gain footing. She finds herself more often than not flailing against the dance floor.

In addition to choreographing the dance, Silver performs the role of the hapless, broken dancer. Behind her a row of tea lights resemble a runway, and as she makes her way upstage, she extinguishes each one. Her counterpart, dancer Amy Love Beasley, unleashes a cloud of down feathers near the end of the piece, which ends with Silver wallowing in their softness.

After intermission, several dancers gathered for a piece titled “A Richer Brew,” by Camerin Allgood McKinnon. The dance began with the group in the center, then they moved out and onto café tables set in front of the first row of the audience. The dancers communicated with their hands, in sign language and by clapping.

The sixth piece had something of a narrative arc and featured two dancers surrounded by a group of four. Dancers on the perimeter appeared at times to persecute the inner pair as the ensemble moved across the dance floor. The music came from the film Gladiator and accentuated the tension in the dance.

Music from the Blue Man Group accompanied the final piece, a set-heavy segment featured the largest cast of the afternoon. Six dancers manipulated large, rolling mirror segments, pushing them around the stage and flirting with their reflections. Then they reversed the sections, revealing a graffiti-covered wall.

At the end of the evening, the seven graduating choreographers bowed, bouquets in hand. The evening felt real enough; perhaps the students’ next stop will not be reality but a recital hall bigger and glitzier than the one at UNCG.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com.

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