Review: The rhythm of dance is gonna get you
"Off the Record," the UMD Dance Concert that opened Thursday night on the Mainstage at the Marshall Performing Arts Center, brought together different combinations of dance artists and live musicians vividly demonstrating the range of what can happen when you are doing choreography.
"Irish Elements," choreographed by LilaAnne Coates White began with classic ballet fused with Irish dance moves, which quickly moved beyond such strictures. "Migration," choreographed by Rebecca Katz Harwood, was the piece where the dancing ended up being rather secondary to the music composed by Marty Winkler, whose opening a cappella song, piano ballad and closing narrative were compelling enough to stand on their own.
"Off the Record" offered some of the longest dance pieces I have seen, because several were driven by rhythm more than melody. Guest choreographer Max Pollack's two pieces, "Samba Do Barba" and "Ochosi," were examples of rumba tap, a mixture of Afro-Cuban rumba with tap dancing and body percussion, which involves hands drumming on the body while tap dancing and singing. "Samba Do Barba" was the most organic piece of the evening. Pollack closed out the evening with a tour-de-force solo set that included ample audience participation.
Another highlight of the evening was "Sansei (Third Generation)," which closed the first act, choreographed by Ann Aiko Bergeron with a driving original score by percussionist Matthew Groom.
Representing the more experimental end of the spectrum, "Illusions," choreographed by Alana Tingelhoff against a soundscape created and mixed by Trevor Norberg, had each musical segment driven by a particular rhythm, where the pace of the dancing, seeking to match and often surpass the beat, created the melodic visual. "Play, Control, Unite," combined Amber Burns' choreography with an original score composed and performed by Adam Sippola, which involved a didjeridu at one point.
The second half began with "Hang Time," also choreographed by Katz Harwood, which was done to a trio of songs composed and performed by the group "Red Mountain," where the instrumental sections allowed the dancing to be extended. Bodies bouncing off and resting up again or upon each other was a repeated motif in this piece. Katz Harwood also did a solo piece, "Shall We?" when I came to the conclusion that Ryan Frane's piano playing represented water and Katz Harwood's dancing represented air.
The most provocative piece was "Invisible Tethers," choreographed by Grace Holden with an original score by Matt Mobley. This was a piece for two male dancers (Pascal Pastrana and Josiah Thompson), a bass fiddle, and cellophane. Virtually every UMD dancer in the show was performing in multiple pieces, but in addition to choreographing this one, Holden danced in both of the Pollack pieces and played the trumpet for Red Mountain. She had me at choreography.
Lawrance Bernabo is wondering if he will have made it home from UMD by the time you read this review ...
If you go
What: "UMD Dance Concert: Off the Record"
Where: Marshall Performing Arts Center, UMD
When: 7:30 tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Adults $18, UMD staff $15, seniors $13, students $8, UMD students $6
For information: (218) 726-8561 and d.umn.edu/theatre