Dance students showcase choreography, talents at an Evening of Dance
On Thursday, April 6, in front of a packed-full Burke-Hawthorne Theatre, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette School of Music and Performing Arts kicked off a four-night exhibition of dances choreographed by students majoring in performing arts that displayed their skill and creativity within the form.
It was a capacity crowd of the dancers’ friends and family, faculty and students there for extra credit dressed in cocktail dresses and button-up shirts.
As the lights dimmed before the show, an off-stage voice called for the the silencing of all personal technology. “I am watching,” it said. People laughed.
The performances ranged from comic to tragic, soundtracked by artists ranging from the five-person a cappella ensemble Pentatonix to Meredith Monk, the legendary theater composer who revolutionized the expressionistic use of extended vocal techniques in composition.
The show began with “Rove,” a piece choreographed by Tori Vincent, who is the Events Coordinator for the UL Lafayette chapter of Chi Tau Epsilon, the National Dance Honors Society. The performance was delicate, but attuned to strength, and evoked senses of birth, or awakening. The name was taken from the title of the composition which accompanied it — written by student Stephen Tumblin.
The next performance was “Sheltered.” An examination of constructed restrictions—physical, mental and societal—this piece utilized a PVC-pipe framework that formed three connected boxes, within which the three dancers battled invisible restraints. Attaining their freedom from the cage in a burst of euphoria, the dancers were soon confronted by the relative safety of the familiar, and two returned to cage—one in fear, and one with the movement of a sorrowed lover. The final dancer stood for a moment in defiance of the construction imprisoning her companions, and then exited stage left. It was choreographed by Brenna Serigne, a graduate of New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.
“The Ways of Wemmicks,” the next performance, featured the choreography of Faith Story in a colorful number that started comedic, ended introspective and incorporated balloons and larger cast of dancers. Soundtracked by Pink Floyd’s “Money,” the performance was reminiscent of childhood and its many illusions of security and the commoditization of happiness. The second half of the piece took an a more somber tone, as the emptiness of the dancer’s actions became more profound.
The final piece before the intermission was “From End to End,” a powerful dance that used used strong black-and-white imagery to evoke a sense of contained, complimentary conflict. Layne Strode’s choreography incorporated a simple, flowing white scarf into the dance in an evocative and spellbinding way. It was a strong finish to the first part of the Evening of Dance.
The curtain came down and we took a 15-minute break. Students languidly scribbled notes on the dancers’ technique and performance and compared thoughts.
Riley McCallum was the choreographer for the first performance of the second act, “Truth is my Name,” which had the dancers concealed in purple robes and their faces obscured by a gauzy white material. The dancers were, in their identical dress, stripped of gender and sexuality and presented simply as human, searching for identity beyond physicality. It was a strong piece that championed a humanistic societal companionship but was a bit cheapened by the Pentatonix tracks that provided the backing.
The most challenging performance of the night was “Reversing Ukiyo,” choreographed by Annie Higginbotham. Ukiyo, Japanese for “floating world”, is a word used to describe the pleasure-centricity of Japan during the Edo period. The piece was set to three Meredith Monk compositions—”Prologue,” “Hey Rhythm” and “High King”—all of which were based on a kind of frenetic repetition (a bell in “Prologue,” a syllabic infinity of “heys” in “Hey Rhythm”) that unsettled the audience as they did not know whether or not to laugh. The dancers, at first, seemed comic as they exaggerated representations of carefree attitude, but the mounting tension of Monk’s composition offset this and led down a rabbit’s hole of surreal horror; the choreography seemed almost not there—a structured chaos in the against the constancy of the music: a bold strike against complacency and destructive circular lifestyle. It was equally funny and frightening. Maybe there wasn’t a difference.
“Curves of You,” the closing performance featuring choreography by Nicole Curtis, was a message that rejected body-shame culture and the impositions of fashion-designers upon women. Dressed in tights with slurs against their physicality and bearing upon their faces and chests marks resembling those of tailors’ chalk denoting where corrections are to be made, the dance exhibited the isolative effects of shame and loathing and culminated in the dancers wiping down their face and removing the tights.
Reaction to the Evening of Dance varied between baffled and glowing. After the performance, as people streamed past where I sat near the top of the Theatre, pedestrian response was whispered: “some of this modern stuff, I just don’t get it,” said a man. Another raved about the fluid incorporation of the scarf in “From End to End.” A woman took issue with a rushed move in one of the pieces, but it didn’t matter. As a whole, it was a successful opening night.
They filed out into the lobby where there was a reception with fresh fruit and cheese and ladies’ fingers. Curtains down on An Evening of Dance, ladies’ fingers up.