Article by Alex Riefe.
The 2019 Goucher Repertory Dance Ensemble Spring Concert entitled “Shape and Sound” debuted this past weekend. Audiences filed into the Kraushaar Auditorium at 7:30 for a non-stop presentation of four unique ballet and modern dances.
The first piece, titled Lux Aurumque, was a ballet piece choreographed by a Goucher dance professor, Elizabeth Lowe Ahearn. This piece featured music by Kevin Keller and begins with a duo on stage. The two danced through a section of intense horns with large sweeping movements and chassés across space. The lighting was dark oranges and reds. The dancers wore tight flesh colored mesh shirts and tights as if to blend with the color scheme. In the next section, chorus dancers filled the rest of the stage. They maintained the expressive movements of the duo but with a faster and more lighthearted feel to match the tune of the music. As the music picked up, the choreography became more focused on footwork. The chorus dancers followed a specific pattern of footwork before moving out over the stage. The last section was the return of the beginning duo with a slowing of the music, bringing back the dark trumpets with slower and larger movements.
The next piece in the program was called The Last to Forgive, choreographed by Loni Landon. Landon is an award-winning choreographer and dancer based in New York City. She is a Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship winner with works commissioned by the Joyce Theater, The Juilliard School, American Dance Institute, Hubbard Street II, and many more. Landon also choreographs for her own collective, the Loni Landon Dance Project. Her piece for this show was modern dance that began with a smoke-filled stage. The choreography itself was a study in negative space. Dancers began with memetic dance, imitating or acting out normal human behavior. A group of dancers circled a lone dancer who pointed accusingly at those around him. The dancers then formed a single unit, exploring space between each other as they moved across the stage. This exploration took the form of dancers holding and directing each other through spaces between other dancers. Other dancers also carried or pulled each other away from the group. Many times throughout the choreography, the dancers would stop and the spotlight would fall on a single dancer before the group would move again. In this way, the dancers were simulating feelings of anger, pain, sorrow, and a search for identity. This was reinforced by Landon’s choice of music, Close to Dark by Aaron Martin, Then I Heard A Bachelor’s Cry by Benjamin Clementine, and various pieces by Vivaldi, and Rutger Zurdervelt. The song by Benjamin Clementine simulated much of the memetic dance and exploration of identity in that it melded well with the choreography. Many of the lyrics coincided with the emotions expressed through the dance.
The third piece took a step away from Landon’s themes. Titled Vibrations Witnessed, the piece was choreographed by another one of Goucher’s faculty, Linda Garofalo. This piece, featuring music by Peter Sculthorpe, began with a strong cello and dark orange lighting similar to the first piece. The choreography worked very well with the strong musical chords as the dancers moved in very strong pointed shapes. This was accomplished by using wide second positions, large movements across stage, and very pointed carriage of arms. These movements were contrasted with slower, more flowing movements as the music settled into a slow suspenseful buildup to a climax and subsequent end of the piece. Dancers in this piece did very well in interpreting the choreography and dancing to what was essentially just picking and scratching on strings. While the music was very abstract, the dancers did well in conveying that abstractness into suspense and dramatic tension.
The final piece of the night was choreographed by guest choreographer, Durante Verzola. Verzola has choreographed for the Miami City Ballet, Conservatory of South Texas, Peabody Dance, and more. He is also a dancer with the Suzanne Farell Ballet founded in Washington, D.C. His repertoire includes works by Balanchine and Petipa. The dance he choreographed was a ballet titled Symphonie Dramatique. In this piece, Verzola states he hoped to, “capture the dignified melodies of the music” and, “demonstrate the chromaticism and complexities of Mozart’s composition.” The choreography itself was graceful, light, and lively. Dancers carried out very difficult combinations with professionalism. The three soloists in this piece showed the most in terms of technique and power. They performed many turns and leaps in four separated moments throughout the entire piece. This piece truly reflected a high level of ballet. Through both Verzola’s choreography and the skill of the dancers, Symphonie Dramatique lived up to Mozarts compositions in both theme and sophistication.
Together, these pieces covered a very wide range of dance. Each choreographer had a different take on movement through space, making this concert both an educational study of movement and a joy to watch.