Annual Innovation

By Robert Lee Wolfe III

The one show I've made sure not to miss through my four years of undergraduate education has been the Choreographers' Showcase. Every year I have been impressed with the originality of the pieces and the pure talent of the dancers. This year's performance was perhaps the most remarkable of any in the past four years, and anyone who missed it may count himself among the unfortunate.

For the unacquainted, the Choreographers' Showcase features an array of performances from a number of choreographers who reside in the area. These performances are typically experimental or at least unusual in nature. This year's series of performances opened with Charli Brissey's, "To Darwin," a powerful look at two beings who commit to evolve together. The most striking aspect of this dance could be found in the contact between Brissey and her co-dancer - the theme of evolution lends itself to an exploration of the inheritance of human animalism, and yet the dance does not stoop to the obvious themes of violence and sexuality. Rather, Brissey and her co-dancer collide with each other and cascade across the dance floor in a muscular series of rolls that suggests the intricacy of the social interaction of a being not psychologically evolved to the same degree as a modern human. It's a refreshing take on the idea of evolution and a uniquely physical performance.

Brissey's performance was followed by the first of two tap dance pieces that found their way into the Showcase. I'll confess some initial skepticism about these, but a combination of full body dance movements and percussions combined with the unflagging stomp of the tap shoes contributed to a duo of performances that reinvigorated the genre. Such innovation within a form is rarely seen, and choreographers Justin Lewis, Mark Osborn, and Justin Myles deserve credit for taking big risks.

Other performances included a piece by Graham Brown that featured a proclivity for the spoken word, which allowed him to probe the ideas of inheritance and family connections in a wrenching nonfictional dialogue, and Tzveta Kassabova's, "Be Well," a dance that grew from an article of clothing and which I can't say that I fully understood, but which was certainly very nice to look at. Vijay Palaparty and Nalini Prakash ended the Showcase with the now mainstay Indian dance performance, which innovated in its use of small objects poured between the performers' hands.

The Choreographers' Showcase is one of the most reliably impressive shows that CSPAC puts on, and anyone who hasn't been owes it to themselves to give it a shot next year. I know that even after my graduation I'll be looking for a way to get back to the Center to see what innovative local artists will be featured in the newest installment.