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Katy Hagelin Dance Project Exercises the Imagination

Written by Jacqueline Louise Brock

(Photo: Dancers Rachel Gonsalves, Katy Hagelin,
Courtney Dressner, and Tori McConnell in Controller
Photo by Wesley Anderson)


Katy Hagelin Dance Project premiered three new pieces this past weekend at Velocity Dance Center. In addition to the new works, the bill also included two pieces from earlier performances. Hours, the first piece of the evening, was inspired by the New York City Fire Department after the events of 9/11. Her dancers performed the work with an earnest giving that resulted in a beautiful remembrance to the bravery of the men who fought for their fellow man. Shifting shapes resembled moments in time of the firefighters lunging, falling, and reaching. Hagelin’s true understanding of the body and its possibilities was demonstrated through tiny, manipulative isolations, inventive floor work, and surprise endings of combinations. The landings from a turn were as unexpected as the pathway to standing from the floor. However, her movement invention was downplayed by the rhythmic timing of her phrases. The dance was too clearly paired with the driving beat of the music, revealing the steady counts of her movements. 

Second was Kiss it Good-bye, a duet that premiered earlier this year. Though the program notes billed it as a “dance about dancers,” it did not necessarily earn the rights to this broad definition since its narrative story depicted only one stereotypical type of dancer. The piece was meant to be lighthearted, with two friends competing against each other in an audition, laughing when the other falls down, and over indulging in ice cream when upset. The music choice seemed irrelevant and the acting portion of the performance seemed as superficial as the observations of dancers. There is a lot more to say about dance and dancers’ relationship to it, even jokingly. 

Hagelin’s creation of a dream world was a true voyage with Purple Triangle/Purple Dagger: The Dream Piece. Her use of character development, spatial arrangement, and movement textures created a world of intensity clearly felt by the audience. The dance told a story of a woman in prison dreaming of a murder, leaving it open as to if it was the murder she had committed, or the fear she might have of being killed. Though a dark narrative, it felt true and free of over dramatic tendencies. Beautiful lifts and interactions drove this piece.

(Dancers Christina Stockdale and Danny
Boulet in Fly Through the Air
Photo by Wesley Anderson)

Fly Through the Air, a piece about professional runners, was another premiere. Dancer Christina Stockdale, clad in bike shorts, a sports bra, and tennis shoes, began by moving in slow motion. Stockdale had a gorgeous sense of control of her body and the sight of her muscles contracting and lengthening added to the movement phrases. Midway through the piece, the solo became a duet. This section surprisingly contained traditional balletic lifts which took the audience out of the world of running. However, the dancers’ focus on the finish line brought the audience back to the fictional world of the race.  

Controller, the last premiere of the evening, was another piece in which Hagelin took her audience to a fantasy world, proving her mastery of fictional landscapes and narratives. In this world, Hagelin used exaggerated, cartoon-like characters to explore roles in the gaming world: The Player, The Developer, and The Game’s Characters. The appearance of each new game character was a real treat for the audience as the costumes were playfully bright and the movement delightfully near in quality and texture to that of a video game character. The hilarity of their costumes provided a comedic tone that rounded out the piece nicely. The dance resulted in an epic battle between the evil, goth-like players, the real world characters, the game characters, and the developers, with good winning out as it should.

Hagelin’s dancers executed her movement with precision and passion, adding strength and beauty to her ever-creative phrase work. If you missed this past weekend’s show, look out for more performances by Katy Hagelin Dance Project as they are not to be missed.