Student and professional choreographers will share a stage this weekend as the Department of Theater and Dance presents its annual Spring Dance Concert. Seven unique dances are showcased in the concert, which opens Thursday in the Dorothy Marvin Betts Theatre.
GW dance professors Dana Tai Soon Burgess and Kista Tucker each choreographed a piece for the performance. Guest artist, Miguel Guiterrez, has choreographed a dance for students. Guiterrez will also be performing a duet in the concert with fellow New York professional dancer and choreographer, Michelle Boule, titled “Careen (2001).” Senior dance students Courtney Lawson, Julie Marshall and Audrey Plonk are each presenting their final choreography projects, first showcased at the SPADE student dance show in March.
Burgess’s “Passage from the Journey” opens the show. It is a moving piece of dance which tells the story of a young Korean woman making the journey from her home in Korea to Hawaii. Burgess says he got his inspiration for the piece from his own family history. The haunting music by the Far East Side Band complements the ghost-like costumes by costume designer Susan Chiang.
The dancers successfully explore the journey, both physical and emotional, of the young woman. A DVD projection, designed by Diana Gibson and Eunah Kim, provides the background setting for the dancers. Gibson says the images were meant to be subtle, and the goal was to create a visual haiku for the piece.
Tucker says she wanted to choreograph a piece about flying, and it eventually evolved into “Mudbirds.” “Mudbirds” is broken up into seven sections, each of which portrays birds in different locations. It is set to music selections performed by the Kronos Quartet and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The choreography imitates the action of birds, although everything stays on the ground. The rapid running of the dancers in the opening and closing sections titled “Tower” offers the illusion of birds flying high in the sky by a bell tower. The complex and abstract movements of the “Swamp” section makes it feel like the performers are dancing in a puddle of mud that they cannot escape. It is a struggle in which the choreography always wins. In “Cage,” the dancers display a great technical expertise evident through their jumping skills and abilities to stay in unison as the choreography speeds up.
Guiterrez’s “tension/intersection” involved 18 dancers and is an excellent finale to the concert. Despite the large group, dancers in the piece project an individual attitude while on stage.
In fact, the whole piece is about attitude. Guiterrez brings the chaos of a city street and the anger society to become the core of his choreography.
There is so much action being danced on stage at a single time that it is hard to describe. It is definitely a work of dance that has to be seen in person to be greatly appreciated. “Tension/intersection” is a highly enjoyable piece of modern dance, although it does cause some displeasure through the ear-pierceing sounds of static, white noise and breaking glass. Although the scene is unpleasant, the sounds create a tension within the music itself and for the audience. Tension also exists between the dancers on stage, which is displayed prominently within Guiterrez’s choreography.
“Lineage” by Lawson, “Intersection Boundaries” by Marshall and “Sirens” by Plonk comprise the student choreography portion of the concert. Lawson and Plonk developed their choreography projects as part of their dance course study, while Marshall pursued her choreography out of her own interest.
Lawson’s choreography is simple, and the dancers execute the movements precisely, although they are lacking liveliness on stage. Marshall’s choreography effectively uses the space provided with the dancers traveling along three separate pieces of elastic rope that crisscross the length of the stage. Plonk’s choreography takes familiar balletic elements and gives them a modern twist. It is a fiery piece, but the dancers could be cleaner in their execution of the choreography.
In addition to the Spring Dance Concert, Guiterrez will be teaching a free master class Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the J Down dance studio on G Street. The GW dance faculty also takes to the stage May 3 and 4 in “5 Views – 5 Companies” in the Betts Theatre.