Guest Artist Concert | Jennifer McKeever (March 2013)

SpringUP Dance Festival
Guest Artist Concert
Friday, March 22, 2013

By Jennifer McKeever

Here we are in the Lehigh Valley amidst the spring snow. But despite the cold, we have crocuses, snowdrops, and daffodils springing up as well as an evening of danceat the Northampton Community College. On Friday night, the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange and the Monarch Dance company presented(appropriately)  the SpringUP Dance Festival Guest Artist Concert full of an eclectic demonstration of dance and performance art.

Annmaria Mazzini, who was a principal dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company for 12 years and is now founder and artistic director of the Mazzini Dance Collective, presented "Changeling."  The piece begins with a slide show of paintings by Susan Seddon Boulet of animals morphing into other animals.  Elizabeth Bragg, a human on an animal journey,  joined her human companions morphing into different animal characters.  The intricate floor patterns of the dance kept the piece interesting from the beginning.  The dancers were on Shamonic journeys metaphorically blindfolded to communicate with their spiritual guides. I saw a little of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, as the dancers covered their eyes and mouths.  Some of the characters distinctly presented were the wolf, a horse, a bird and my favorite "Little Big Cat" gracefully portrayed by a petite Evelyn Wheeler who kept my attention the whole time with her artistry, lyricism and smile.  There were moments of draggingdancers from one corner to a back corner as if figuratively they were being transported back to another character.  The fragmenting of lightingand movement correlated with the interplay of animal and human, friendship and discourse, leading to a transcendence instead of an ending.

Tabatha Robinson-Scott of the Monarch Dance Company presented "Dark City" with 10 lovely dancers to moving music by Hans Zimmer.  Great partnering with simple uniform costuming added to a concrete display of continuity of a work that was well-conceived and danced accordingly.  Robinson-Scott says "It is about how society sacrifices morally and wears a mask to hide or reveal their internal or external darkness."  Each dancer was given a chance to create a phrase or solo to demonstrate their own emotional dark side.  I appreciated each former student of Robinson Scott's attempt to display their character with the mask and the difference when they took it off.  The lyrical section after taking off the masks was beautiful, exercising the body's freedom and symbolically indicating that we are together and trying to get back to ourselves.

"Home" an excerpt from a version of "The Wiz" choreographed and performed by accomplished dancer /choreographer, Nicholas Leichter took the stage mostly in a stationary place, perhaps not home but a spotlight close to it.  The dance was syncopated, rhythmic movement with a bit of a Michael Jackson influence.  Leichter took quirky but inventive choreography andpresented a stylized set of phrases with an integration of a balletic pose that slid into a jazzy surprise while wearing a sequined red hat.  There were twitches and switches flicking away to the music of Monstah Black.  The irony of a gay African American portraying the character Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" was atypical but typically ended with the pair of red sparkly slippers clicking thrice.

"Objects of Desire" is an excerpt from a world premiere which will debut in the fall of 2013.  Choreographed and directed by Sarah Parker of Continuum Dance, this piece was a statement or an offering of performance art rather than a traditional dance work.  The "Statement" was the things we desire beginning with two women playing with barbie dolls in a full fledged dialogue about who has a boyfriend and who doesn't.  The piece moved onto a dancer covered with bras who emerged then trying to wear them all.

The dancers all of a sudden began to talk on cell phones creating a distracting moment jumping back and forth with dialogue all over the place like the work itself. After another sort of battle, two women ended up playing barbies again.  Perhaps the work may have been more effective metophorically rather than literally.

Like our surprise snow, the Spring UP Dance Festival caught this reviewer off-guard by including two talented break dancers with "Here Comes the Boom" performed by Simon Phoenix and Ethikz.  The duo utilized one hand stunts and held poses that would impress any dancer from an audience in a theatre to by standers in the street.

"Slants Remix" created by Maree ReMalia and Hyunjung Lee incorporated an amazing score including a personal favorite, Amon Tobin.  The piece began quizzically as the two performers Jessica Marino and Sarah Parker wore bags over their heads.  I wasn't quite sure how this stunt fit into the piece and ending the same way. At first, the wall was their backdrop as they slammed against it and used it's gravity to twirl and press in poses as if the barrier was their muse.  The movement continued away from the wall but was disjointed and seemed tolack of purpose.  It was a juxtaposition of phrases incongruent with a theme but executed cleanly and with feeling.

The evening held a certain sense of clarity with a diversity of dance genres and opinions of what dance performance means.  Spring is here and "SpringUP" offered a demonstration of all the different shoots coming from the earth. The choreography was presented in a decidedly upward fashion and so should be celebrated with all blossoms of the season.