Captivating describes Thursday's opening night of UMD Theatre’s production of DanceWorks 2019, directed by Rebecca Katz Harwood. Eighteen pieces were showcased in the 90-minute performance.
The curtain went up with murmurs from the audience. The stage was filled with human and robot dancers. "Shall We Dance," choreographed by Ann Aiko Bergeron, was a unique collaboration of movement between humans and technology.
"Simmer," choreographed by LilaAnn Coats White, was the only piece performed on pointe. The red costumes were striking against the plain backdrop. The ballet choreography was exquisite, delicate and strong. The dancers possessed a beautiful fluid quality to their movement, but the basics, such as “turn out” (external rotation of the hips), was missing.
Cassie ZumHofe’s piece, "When You Love Someone," was like a breath of fresh air. The ensemble’s movement and use of chairs was innovative.
"This is Love," choreographed by Alexandra Bunker, had some nice elements. The color scheme, combined with music and dialogue, delivered a powerful, positive message. I liked the repeated “refrain” of movement woven throughout this piece, a beautiful balance highlighting the dancers' varying strengths.
Patrick Timmons’ "Cyclical Desire" was a sultry piece choreographed for four women and one-man. It was easy to visualize the complex emotional currents between the dancers as the male dancer went from new partner to new partner.
The most ambitious piece, "Keep Your Name," choreographed and performed by Austin Becker and Madi Lang, was complex and intense. The dancers did an excellent job displaying their anger and despair through their movement. Contrary to the aggressive encounters between these two dancers, their movements had a lyricism to them. This depiction of people in crisis and the emotional forces that compel them to action had me on the edge of my seat.
Lastly, the performance closed with a campy and wildly entertaining four-movement piece choreographed by Anthony Ferguson. “Ode to Night” brought the audience into a world of ouija boards, ghosts, skeletons and zombies. The playful phrase work, story line, and old school Scooby-Doo-reminiscent outtakes was absolutely delightful.
DanceWorks 2019 showcased talented professional and emerging choreographers along with promising dancers. Aside from the ballet and tap pieces, a lot of the choreography seemed to be a blend of dance genres. It reminded me of competition-style dancing as apposed to concert-style dancing.
In general, the choreography was heavily right-sided, with most développés, fan kicks and jumps on the right side only. Also, I would have liked to have seen fewer “tricks” in exchange for solid technique. With that said, this show gave the audience enough compelling, varied choreography and “wow” factor to impress even the most ardent of dance fans. Put it on your must-see list.
Kelly Sue Coyle reviews dance performances for the News Tribune.
If you go
What: DanceWorks 2019
When: Dec. 6-7 at 7:30 p.m., Dec 8 at 2 p.m.
Where: Marshall Performing Arts Center, UMD