Spring Dance Concert Embodies Emotion Through Movement
Review by Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
The Ethington Dance Ensemble demonstrated how the body as an instrument can become a window into the human soul in the “Twinge” spring dance concert.
The Friday and Saturday shows, comprised of modern, jazz and ballet pieces, explored how we respond kinesthetically to emotion. Twinge – a sudden onset of physical or emotional pain – was embodied through dance motions that depicted rejection or grief. The student troupe at times shattered the concept, as pieces displayed the level of delight that can be felt through kinesthetic movement.
Susannah Keita, GCU director of dance, and her team of instructors — Zari Le’on, Leanne Schmidt, Sonja Mitrovic and Jenny Showalter — orchestrated an elegant story that seamlessly traversed the gamut of emotions from sadness and despair to exuberance and love, amid classic, contemporary dance styles, often perceived as chaotic and disorganized by the untrained eye.
Keita flawlessly integrated an original piece from each instructor, while weaving pieces from renowned guest choreographers Janaea Rose Lyn, Jessica Gaynor and Sean Dahlberg into the concert tapestry.
A minimal set consisting of only a cyclorama – a large wall palette reflecting colored lights – and black traveler (curtain) served as the backdrop and set the mood for each piece, permitting the performers to demonstrate the scene’s implied emotion. The traveler was drawn to create the visual of an enclosed space during select pieces, and performers’ costume colors ranging from deep blacks to vibrant hues of pink and yellow portrayed the piece’s mood.
Slideshow University photographer Darryl Webb captured these images from the “Twinge” performance.
The concert opened with “Burnout Eyess,” a tumultuous, upbeat performance set to electronica, alternative music choreographed by Le’on. The performance followed a unique “destroy” technique, wherein dancers learned choreography and then destroyed it at performance. Performers painted the stage with improvisational root movements taught by Le’on, which dancers could choose to employ spontaneously during the performance. The piece created a beautiful yet perplexing portrait of uniformity, gracefully illustrating human emotions.
Guest artist and choreographer Rose Lyn performed a Brahms Waltz solo to dance pioneer Isadora Duncan’s signature work Op. 39 #15 (“Petals”) with pianist and GCU music major Kelsey McKee. Rose Lyn is a third-generation Isadora Duncan dancer and historian and serves as artist in residency for the dance program. Her solo reflected the organic origin of movement founded by Duncan that takes a philosophical approach to dance and investigates the kinesthetic movement from the torso and solar plexus.
In Schmidt’s seven-part “100 Ways to Save a Life,” 10 dancers performed an elaborate storyline to Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” and Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” along with a range of electronica and alternative music. The piece highlighted the athleticism and range of the performers as they enacted various styles of dance. The piece was hilarious when necessary, as performing duos pantomimed various deaths, like drowning and choking, before being rescued by their partner. But it also told the story of death and grace, depicted by a performer’s limp body lifted above a crowd and carried across the stage.
Much like the human soul and the emotions dwelling within, the intended emotions represented in each piece were left to audience interpretation, as they peered through the window crafted from kinesthetic movement. What was more obvious to the audience was “Twinge’s” ability to spotlight the flourishing talent and storytelling dexterity of the student dance ensemble under the guidance of Keita.