29th Annual Choreographers' Showcase

By Sarah Houge

Each of the six performances in the 29th Annual Choreographer's Showcase had the ability to resonate deeply with the audience on a multitude of levels, which made them all entertaining and sometimes very moving.

The first performance was choreographed by Charli Brissey and performed by Brissey and Felix Cruz. In their performance, entitled "To Darwin," I saw an evolution not biological, but emotional. The two of them transcended the somewhat conventional stereotype that a man and woman dancing and performing together are in love. The two dancers walked like friends moving in symmetry, on a path of concentric circles through time.

Their style would range from upright homo sapien, to fiercely animal in the way they tumbled and lurched along the floor. It was like watching a slow retrogression to primal actions transform into a progression to modern man, solely in the way they moved. I took that to mean that humans can be very animal-like sometimes, although other times not as much. We're always oscillating between our roots in early man to our current status with our straight backs and composed demeanor.

My favorite part of this performance was the controlled and chaotic tumbling, the falling over each other. I was amazed to see how movement with so much energy and momentum could be so deliberate. Their entwined movement was a communication, a humanly testament to Charles Darwin.

The second performance was entitled "Cosmic Love," based on the song by Florence + The Machine. The seven dancers could have fooled you at first into thinking this was a conventional tap-dancing set, but those girls didn't have happy feet. Instead, they had scorned ones. They were thundering angels who beat their feet and hearts in time with the song about heartbreak. The anguish registered on their faces; this in particular impressed me. I wish the performance could've been longer, but they made their point perfectly in the length of the song.

The third performance was choreographed and performed by Graham Brown and was entitled "As Far As I Know." This performance was not solely dance at all; I saw it as a story, told to the tune of dance. Brown recounted his life and relationships with family in a setting that was meant to simulate a home. He was dressed normally, as he talked about God, his father, the reason he dances, and self-made personal "voids" that lead us to be who we become.

Frankly, I was impressed at how he could talk and dance so manically and explosively at the same time, while I can barely walk and talk and not sound stupid. The whole performance was rather hyperactive, which he warned us about at the beginning, stating that he has ADHD. Overall, the influence of other artistic elements made the performance somewhat convoluted and hard to follow. Fewer elements would have helped the audience get involved and understand.

The fourth performance of the night was "Be Well," choreographed by Tzveta Kassabova and performed by Kassbova and David Yates. This was the most abstract of the night's performances, but if you had experienced what the dancers were acting, you would understand their emotions and feelings very well. It appeared that Kassabova was a close relation to Yates. She swirls and bounds in her billowing skirt around him, yet he turns clockwise in place, oblivious to her immense action and energy. He rarely moves four feet in either direction during the whole performance. With the spotlight on Yates, he seems to be part of a different time, a different sphere of existence than Kassabova. She shows frustration, agony, persistence in her attempt to bring him into her world. She even breaks down to cry next to him; he registers her, but only on the surface.

The performance moved me to deeply feel the struggle taking place between the two performers. It was heartbreaking to see Kassabova try, and then fail, gain hope again, yet to fail again. Everything about the performance felt real to me; it was art imitating life.

"Body Music," the fifth performance of the night, was the second tap-dancing show of the night. I was impressed by the genuine groove of the performers; it made me want to jump up and enjoy the beat with them! Parts of the performance were very reminiscent of step-dancing, which was a good technique to sample from. This tap performance was also very short, and I would've liked to have seen more of the techniques they could do with that style of music.

The final and most spiritual performance was "Ardhanareeswara," which was performed and choreographed by Vijay Palaparty and Nalini Prakash. This was a performance that had such ancient roots, it felt out of place to see it. Although it was not in the same realm as the other performances, I greatly enjoyed seeing something so different and original. The ceremony felt intimate; the connection between the performers and the audience was strong, as well as the connection between the performers and the Hindu god, Shiva. The precise movements and decoration show the distinct care the performers had for their deity, to whom they offer spices and petals.

Each of the dancer's movements was in time with the music, and their ankle bells, foot-stomps and slaps accented the music as well. The bio of these two performers said that Prakesh was honored by India as a cultural treasure for her dancing. I read this and I was immediately in awe because of how fortunate I was to see someone so valued for preserving the culture of her home country. The performance was so special and sacred; I felt that the whole audience felt fortunate to be able to witness this sacrosanct recital, as well as the others before it. The night fully explored the range of human emotion.