By Mariko Nagashima
The University of Washington’s Dance Department presented an enticingly diverse program in this week’s Faculty Dance Concert. Ranging from a zesty tango to a classic José Limón piece, the concert showcased the versatility of UW’s dancers.
The witty opening piece, Davenport Memoirs choreographed by Llory Wilson, captures the evolution of one couple’s relationship centered around a large couch placed in the middle of the stage. Beginning with a series of slowly revolving lifts and counterbalances, the couple, danced by Alethea Sadie Alexander and Thomas Van Doren, tentatively explores their relationship with each other. Both dancers showed excellent stage presence, easily portraying quiet tenderness and a sense of intimacy as they moved through this early phase of their relationship. The second movement opens with the two comically arrayed in various poses on the couch. With Van Doren sprawled lazily at one end of the sofa and Alexander shooting him a cold look with her arms crossed at the other end, the tone of their relationship has obviously changed. The dancers display their simultaneous angst and affection for one another as they move through strenuous lifts with great finesse. A moment of particular nostalgia occurs with the two sitting on the floor, slowly rocking each other, echoing how loving they once were, until Alexander stands, ending the memory. The final movement is a rambunctious ride with the two jumping on, flopping over, and rolling off the sofa with gusto. Incredibly dynamic with even a quick kiss thrown in, it’s as if they’ve decided it’s for better or worse and they’re in it together regardless. The piece playfully ends with the two running away from the audience and hopping off the back of the sofa together.
Second on the bill is the premiere of Solo un Fantasma/Only a Ghost, a unique take on classic Argentine tango. Choreographed by Juliet McMains in collaboration with her dancers, this piece brings new meaning to the phrase “It takes two to tango.” Featuring two couples, and the bandoneón player who occasionally joins the dance, the dancers toy with traditional partnering roles; sometimes tangoing alone and sometimes dancing with two partners, the third person sandwiched between the original couple. The intricate footwork of the tango is beautifully performed by all the dancers, with many smooth gliding steps punctuated by crisp heel flicks. The live music added an even more authentic feel to this unique piece.
The restaging of Five 4 Now by Jürg Koch, is an energetic quintet set to the beautiful singing of Monteverdi’s “Mentre vaga Angioletta.” At times perfectly matching the flowing harmonies of the music and at others exactly juxtaposing them with sharp quick movements, Koch’s choreography is a treat to watch. The piece accentuates individual dancers’ phrases by embedding them in closely knit ensemble work. Stark lighting, with bold red and blue backdrops, helps focus the audience’s attention on these many shifting choreographic patterns. The dancers, clad in grey pants and men’s dress shirts worn backwards, all demonstrated a lovely sense of fluidity as they easily transitioned from whirlwind partnering to precise group work. After wild spinning and frantic leaping the dancers slowly settle and regroup, standing in a clump with their back’s to the audience, as the light fades.
To finish the program was José Limón’s A Choreographic Offering, restaged by Brenna Monroe-Cook. This bright, exuberant piece is a tribute to Limón’s mentor, Doris Humphrey, and utilizes movements and motifs from many of her works. The piece features several strong soloists and an energetic duet as well as an abundance of ensemble dancing. Dressed in gracefully flowing blue and purple dresses the dancers arc and bound across the stage, rejoicing in the freedom of their movement. The many technical nuances of this piece, such as the exact hand and head positions, are performed with great clarity and precision. Also impressive is the strong corps work, as they maintain clear lines and formations even when all fourteen dancers are onstage. This historical piece gave the audience a taste of classic modern dance, nicely rounding out the program.
Overall, UW’s Faculty Dance Concert offers a glimpse at the ranged skills of their dancers as well as the choreographic abilities of their faculty. Performances continue December 3-5 in the Meany Studio Theater. Tickets are available through the UW Arts Ticket Office at 206-543-4880, in person at 3901 University Way NE, or online at http://www.meany.org/