Prelude: A Debut Performance

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Presenting an evening-length performance of self-choreographed works is a daunting task for even seasoned choreographers. With her debut concert Prelude, newcomer Holly Logan fearlessly accepted this challenge. Logan’s Prelude presented two premieres and three restaged works on Friday and Saturday, June 20-21 in Velocity Dance Center’s Founders Studio Theater. Logan, joined by five other dancers, performed the mostly classically modern dance choreography with balletic elements, in an evening that hopefully was a prelude to future offerings by this young dance maker.

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Holly Logan’s Prelude
Photo by Gavin Greenwalt

Logan’s genius for casting talented dancers (Lindsay Johns, Ciara McCormack, Ashleigh Claire Miller, Elizabeth Voiles, and Samantha Weissbach) greatly enhanced the evening. Each dancer was allowed stage time that best showed off their individual talent. Johns, one of Logan’s fellow Sixth Day Dance members, performed only in the duet Internal Conversations with Logan, however, her graceful long limbs and fluid movement–especially during sure-footed one-legged descents to the floor–were especially memorable. McCormack’s ending solo in the titular piece Prelude was lyrically soft while carving out linear space with elegant extensions. Weissbach stood out both within group sections and in numerous solos; she used her Disney-like features with compelling focus and her strong stage presence matched her flawless technique (as in her casually brilliant triple pirouette during At the Line). She was slightly less powerful during Solos in Three. Her overtly sexy solo unfortunately came across as insincere and superficial, in part due to stereotypical posturing within the choreography. Miller’s section in Solos in Three juxtaposed Billie Holiday’s “On the Sentimental Side” with an almost violent use of force and lack of facial emotion, a beautifully disturbing and well-executed psychopathy.

While the dancing was lovely, some technical aspects of the show detracted from Prelude’s overall experience. The musical choices for the three of the works (Max Richter, Fall On Your Sword, and Zoe Keating) made for difficult editing. Inexpert musical edits marred the evening, the many jarring cuts not complementing the feel of each piece. Lighting and musical cues seemed rushed at the beginning of each work, and the dancers appeared to have to dash onstage to attempt to be in place as the lights came up and the music began. Film projection in Internal Conversations, ended prior to the work’s finish, cutting to a computer screen display while the dancers were still performing.

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Holly Logan’s Prelude
Photo by Holly Logan

The most disconcerting moment Friday night was at the end of the concert when, once the dancers ran offstage without a bow after the final piece, the house lights came up and the doors to the theater opened: the audience glanced at one another, seeming unsure whether the performance was over. A lack of clear ending was a slight issue with each of the five works as well, a missed opportunity for finality within each piece, possibly related to unclear relationships and cohesion within the works and throughout the evening. Choreography was often independent of the music, with neither the music nor dance clearly building to an overall purpose. Despite these problems, Logan’s choreography showed promise in its use of space and level, the works looking like great fun for the dancers tasked with stretching and hurling themselves through three-dimensional space.

The show’s thematic thread, stated on the Prelude website, boldly describes a process of journey to discover individual and communal identity. Although each work could fit within this thread (and some had better connection to the idea than others,) Prelude perhaps best touched upon the identity of the performance’s choreographer/director. This vulnerability, inherent when showing multiple works by a single person, could be a frightening prospect to many young choreographers. In her first concert, Logan took a leap of faith, a confident act that will hopefully be repeated.