Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 2010 Concert at GMU

Watching Edwin Aparicio’s last week and the dancers of GMU last night I’m thinking about the visceral nature of dance. It challenges our notion that life can be captured and transmitted through images and recordings, and insists on experiences that are direct, immediate, and fleeting. I don’t think any recording of Aparicio’s dancers and musicians can replicate their energy or the electricity of watching their artistry take flight. I got chills. Last night, as the students who are majoring in dance at GMU presented choreography by their classmates and faculty, my eyes were bathed in different notions of beauty.

“A” by professor Constance Dinapoli arranged dancers in duets, a trio, and then an ensemble as their movement evolved from sparse to full-bodied and exuberant. The score complemented their moods: the first piece by Thomas Stanley sounded like noise from a street or public space as two dancers presented gestures and poses that seemed to intersect like puzzle pieces. There were also playful moments when one dancer exaggerated the walk of the other, trailing her like a rebellious shadow. These beginning duets appeared gentle, like studies in cause and effect, which reminded me of Alexander Calder’s sculptures. Bodies made shapes that shifted and transformed, propelled by the impulse of another dancer. By the last section all nine women were on stage. They froze momentarily like statues before returning to their frantic locomotion. Their frenzy reminded me of lives today – all rush with very little respite. I enjoyed the contrast between the more still first scenes and the climax toward the ending when music by Techno 5 caused the dancers’ feet to flutter in skips and prances.

Each of the evening’s pieces featured choreography that highlighted elements of the music. Three of these pieces stood out because of their differences.

“Tambour” by Brianna Kimball started with the dancers standing in silhouette, their bodies making shapes that rocked from side to side as the dancers shifted their heels right and left. This swaying motion served as a kind of beat or through-line to the piece as the choreography progressed into contractions and canons of movement. Matched with music by Steve Reich, the choreography made visible Reich's score, “Drumming Part IV,” which built in a similar fashion with patterns that increased and overlapped. Different in mood but also captivating in its pairing of movement and music was Adam Buss’ “City Rain.” Set to Max Richter’s “Flowers for Yulia” the movement consisted of sweeping gestures and the flowing costumes accentuated the windswept ambiance. Dancers rolled to the floor and swirled up again. The atmosphere was more plaintive and melancholy than “Tambour,” but the energy of the performers was similarly riveting. “Sebagai Perayaan, Kami Menari” by Caroline Yost closed the concert with an exploration of gestures and instruments from Bali. The last section of Yost’s choreography, set to music by Mindia Devi, turned the dancers into glittering deities, their hands and arms making intricate shapes.

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