Choreographers on Campus Showcase | Rachel Halkias (Nov. 2016)

Choreographers on Campus Showcase
Friday, November 18, 2016
The Williams Center, Lafayette College

By Rachel Halkias

The Williams Center for the Arts at Lafayette College presented a diverse evening of performances in a Choreographers on Campus installment, Friday, November 18. The full program consisted of breakdance, contemporary ballet and contemporary modern.

Choreographer Nora Gibson presented an excerpt from 2^57,885,161, a piece inspired by prime number theory and the properties therein - sequence, groupings and pathways. A screen hangs down halfway to the stage, displaying a slow crawl of waves suggestive of brain activity during sleep or the spikes and dips on an EKG. It remains in the viewer’s high periphery throughout the piece, movement in a space inaccessible by bodies.

The dancers emerge from darkness in a low green light, reminiscent of the glow of an old monochrome computer monitor. Their movement is measured and exact - the constant directional changes within the movement phrases are not disorienting, arbitrary or frenetic. Synthesized dissonant tones atop distant, muffled drumbeats seem to lay just underneath the movement rather than drive or prompt it. Loud beeps encroach and become more frequent, their harshness juxtaposed against the dancers’ measured grace. The repetition of movement phrases in various iterations create patterns that seem to emerge and dissipate as smoothly as the upward and downward slopes of the waves on the screen above. Patterns created by canons, unison, and unison moments within canons are explored. The entire piece seems to be a representation of a formula or algorithm, introduced, built upon and concluded. If a computer could dream, it might dream this piece.

Helen Simoneau Danse presented an excerpt from Land Bridge, an exploration of “heritage, assimilation and identity to reveal how the willing erasure of the self may serve as a means of renewal and redirection.” Simoneau, a native of Quebec, draws inspiration from the caribou in this work -- how they live, interact, migrate, and, although threatened as a species, continue to survive.

Five dancers emerge from offstage to a slow, steady drumbeat, maintaining a straight line across the back of the space. They move as a unit with stately, deliberate steps, undulating slightly in the upper body with an ease in the shoulders. The score incorporates breath, not simply inhaling and exhaling in a natural rhythm but purposefully punctuating the stillness around the solitary drumbeat. One by one, the dancers break off from the group, move by themselves for a moment, then rejoin the group at the back of the line. Throughout the piece, there exists a mindful yet innate relationship between the dancers. They connect and fall away, roll over and around each other. They always seem to be aware of the surrounding bodies without direct acknowledgment, creating a herd effect. During a duet section, the dancers seems to create a single entity, two halves of a whole supporting each other without one taking more responsibility than the other at any moment.

Deer-like imagery is echoed throughout the piece. The movement quality itself does not seem animalistic, but a few shapes here and there remind the viewer of the subject of inspiration -- antlers made by placing spread-fingered hands on top of the head, the appearance of hooves in the shape of the hands on the floor, and powerful leaps. The costumes incorporate a bit of velvet, reminiscent of furry antlers.

Choreographer Raphael Xavier also presented his thoughtfully crafted Point of Interest, a dynamite break dance theater piece that unpacks the question of how to remain a vibrant dancer even as one ages. The showcase format allows an audience to experience a wide range of styles, essential to fostering a well-rounded community of dance supporters. Each piece was thoughtful, relevant and nuanced in creation and execution.