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'Dynamite!' meshes many dance styles in a high-energy stage delight

Previously, the Over the Top Dance Company put on "Emote Shun" at the Play Ground. Now their engaging new show "Dynamite!" again incorporates a wide variety of styles of dance and movement disciplines from tango and salsa to lyrical modern dance ...

Previously, the Over the Top Dance Company put on "Emote Shun" at the Play Ground. Now their engaging new show "Dynamite!" again incorporates a wide variety of styles of dance and movement disciplines from tango and salsa to lyrical modern dance and hip-hop.

The professional philosophy of artistic director Juliana Bertelsen, who was a principle dancer with the American National Ballet, has been to have students learn the styles of dance that fit their personalities and "Dynamite!" passionately embodies that principle.

The program begins with "Harp Tango Duet," choreographed and danced by Bertelsen and Danny Whitehead. The result is not a traditional tango, but a reimagining of the dance that owes more to classical ballet, with a touch of gymnastics.

The high point of "Dynamite!" comes early in the show with "La Salsa Nunca Se Acaba" ("The Salsa is Never Over"). The evening's theme of dramatic contrasts is firmly established between the two pairs of dancers. While Whitehead and choreographer Kerri Sjoblom go for sunny smiles, Bertelsen and Soleh Dib opt for smoldering looks. Clearly, salsa works either way.

That high-energy number is followed by the slow, graceful movements of the "Thai Fusion Bellydance duet," a number that convinces me voguing began on the sub-continent.

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In "Krawling," set to the music of Linkin Park, choreographer Brady Tepley and Bertelsen start off on opposite sides of the stage doing mime and modern dance, then merge into more hip-hop and classical ballet moves respectively, before criss-crossing styles as the piece progresses.

The first half of the show ends with "Every Breath You Take," performed by four pairs of dancers. The piece begins with simple strides and struts before developing into a kaleidoscope of dance styles.

To my untutored eyes, Nikolay Zhelev's and Bertelsen's "Run the Show," starting the second act, was the piece that incorporated the most styles of dance. Sjoblom's solo "Push, Push" is a supple reminder that dance also is about what movements a dancer can create above the waist.

The standout performer of the evening was Whitehead, by virtue of his high-energy dancing and his dazzling smile. All night he connected with the audience, whether partnered with Bertelsen or Sjoblom, or dancing solo to Elvis Presley's "Mess of Blues."

Several of the numbers are done to nice effect with strobe lights, and the evening ends with an encore piece featuring an excellent (but unnamed in the program) break dancer.

A trio of harpists--Janelle Lemire, Kailee Lemire and Julie Erlemeier-- play the music for the opening number as well as a pair of first act interludes that remind us there are time when the harp can be considered a percussion instrument

All of these dancers live and work in Duluth, and the company combines both dancers that Bertelsen has worked with over the past four years as well as some fresh talent, which might be why most of the enthusiastic opening-night audience seemed to be made up of proud family members and friends.

LAWRANCE BERNABO teaches communication courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His chorus line scores would be Dance 1, Looks 3.

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