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ISSUE 119 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/12/2006

Companydance ravishes crowd

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last weekend, the frenetic performers of Companydance filled Kelsey Theater for their spring concert. The company's directors invited the audience to “join in our exploration” in the event's program, leading attendees to wonder where meaning can be found in modern dance performance, and who supplies it.

By and large, however, the performances were enough to distract viewers from more philosophical contemplation. The concert opened with “Spiral Shift,” a piece in which brown-clad dancers performed a series of windmiling arm motions, interspersed with waltz-esque sections, exploring the nature of the individual and the crowd. The piece was guest-choreographed by Mathew Janczewski.

“A Weekly Gathering in the Woods” was another first-half show-stopper. Described by one audience member as having “the subtlety of a lead-pipe,” the piece was a Tim Burton-esque, darkly lit evocation of what seemed to be a witches' coven, complete with screams and jangly, unsettling music. “A Weekly Gathering” was charmingly obvious in its horror-genre pretensions, and more intriguing than disturbing.

String quartet music seemed popular, providing the soundtrack both for “Spiral Shift” and “Portrait,” a piece choreographed by Associate Professor of Dance Janice Roberts which was notable both for its strategic use of silence and for its masterful evocation of the complicated human relationships which a family portrait can obscure.

“Haunted Memory,” choreographed and performed by Megan McDonald ‘08, was notable for its use of student-composed music, junior Blaise Douros' “Let It Be Forgotten.” A black-clad, candle-holding chorus joined McDonald on the stage while she, in pink, danced around them, evoking the difficulties of memory and of forgetting.

“Breath” evoked contradictory responses. Inspired by Zen Buddhism practices and incorporating Zen religious chanting and instruments into its music, the piece attempted to depict the inner struggle that is meditation. Although the notes invited watchers to “breathe with the dancers,” the rhythm of breathing was soon discarded in favor of the three dancers writhing around half-naked onstage, complete with a pole. In this case, the performance distracted from the message.

The crowd favorite “Trust said, jump. Fear said, no,” closed the first half. While the dancing in that piece was certainly among the most athletic in the entire concert, it seemed that the piece relied too heavily on the rather trite lyrics of its music, Natasha Bedingfield's “Wild Horses,” to convey its emotions rather than on the dance itself.

The second half of the concert seemed calmer, although the high level of technical accomplishment and excellent lighting remained. “Becoming,” which was choreographed by Sarah Goldberg ‘08 to “Staralfur” by Sigur Ros, was notable not for any one element, but rather for a perfect combination of music, choreography, light and costumes, which together provided an excellent modern dance experience. “Darkness,” choreographed by Brittany Shrimpton ‘07, was short, but very effective in its use of color and choreography to create a mood.

“Iridescence,” a piece choreographed and performed by Julia Langenberg ‘06, struck a false note. In her program notes, Langenberg all but refused to define the meaning of her piece, instead inviting the audience to “explore your own interpretation.” This approach backfired, however, in that Langenberg's abnegation of meaning resulted instead in its complete absence, and her piece seemed little more than self-indulgent contortions as a result.

The concert finished with “Teaghlach,” an Irish-style medley choreographed by Dance Professor Heather Klopchin and performed by her and students in shades of purple and green; the piece was (unsurprisingly) skillfully conceived and performed.

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