New Dance Partners

The 4th New Dance Partners project at Johnson County Community College; four world premiere works commissioned by the Carlsen Center featuring the best local dance companies and four national-level choreographers. Artistic advisor Michael Uthoff, organized by Emily Berhmann, and funded with local support. This is a notes version response.

Störling Dance, performing Heather C. Gray’s “In perpetuum.” Music by Ezio Bosso. (Sidebar: why don’t choreographers credit the actual pieces they use? This always drives me crazy.)  Interesting ensemble structure, I loved how integrated Burke Brown’s lighting was, especially the opening feature of the red line. The pretty swirling (the perpetual?) of the silken maroon skirts, in keeping with the tone and flow of the music, didn’t enthrall me, but then again I don’t think Störling’s aesthetic is designed with my preferences in mind, which is ok, just different ideals. I loved the skirts. I want one. Finishing tableau was a vision, beautifully lit and strong end.

Wylliams/Henry Dance Company, performing “an artist?” by Jennifer Archibald. Music by Estas Tonne, Ben Frost, with voice of Marina Abramović. Takes guts to draw on Abramović’s body of work to set a piece, but Archibald nailed it. Strong, precise movement for the dancers, who seemed a perfect palette. Gestures were aggressive, absurdist without a hint of humor, which I loved. Vaguely threatening movements, lots of tensions. Captivating floorwork. Lighting made the whole work intimately sculptural. Well crafted: sequences and transitions wonderfully honed. No wasted movements and the piece was intriguing, surprising. The pumped in fog made a little cloud, added with a bell toll, the movement, and sometimes lack of movement, insinuated with the voice, but never pretentious or too obvious. This was my personal favorite.

Owen/Cox Dance Group, performing Kameron N. Saunders “Facade.” Saunders was the only choreographer I’ve seen before, I was looking forward to seeing this new piece, and he did not disappoint. The most theatrical, but not schticky. Dancers were masked, but the movement allowed for unique moments, solo and duo work, within that ambiguity. A movement from Schubert string quartet, credited (points!), and I loved how the phrasing was sometimes at odds with the pulse and attitude of the music. Loose torsos, rolling motion, seemed standard Saunders, and used well, a fluidity cut with sharp surprises. The ambiguity set up moments of fear and tortured phrases. Using a prop, like masks, can carry many associations, but Saunders balanced expectations exceptionally, and used spotlighting effectively, dramatic without being stagey.

Kansas City Ballet, performing Michael Neenan’s “The Uneven,” set to sections from Philip Glass’ Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, The Concerto Project Vol. IV. Neenan adhered to the iterative nature of the music with an extended, additive introduction. Beautiful, intuitive duets. Some witty, playground moments were clever, whimsical, if a bit out of place at times, while at others I can’t imagine a more perfect decision, as with the wavering fingers.  Smartly structured: layered phrases added depth, intrigue to the sequences, elegant transitions, woven together, especially a delicate bourrée that was unexpected every time. The costuming (the dancers in three sets of either navy, periwinkle and plum) helped us follow the structure, cohesively designed by Lisa Choules, who also did Owen/Cox’ attire with excellent effect.

I would hope the dance groups can incorporate these new works into the remaining performances of their seasons, or even their repertoire for a later show, but tonight’s the last chance to see for awhile and the concert is recommended.



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