SpringUP Guest Artist Concert | Rachel Halkias (March 2015)

SpringUP Guest Artist Concert
Saturday, March 7, 2015
Lipkin Theater
Northampton Community College

by Rachel Halkias

The first weekend of March marked the third annual SpringUP Dance Festival hosted by the Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange and Monarch Dance Company at Northampton Community College. A selection of guest artists from diverse professional backgrounds shared their energy, experience and talent in a unique two-day intensive. After a long day of classes, Saturday culminated in the Guest Artist Concert, with 11 original works presented that evening.

Back in January, New York City-based choreographer and dancer Antonio Brown set a work on local dancers during a three-day residency, resulting in Unmixed. Intricacy, specificity and nuance of movement drive the piece in an engaging and unexpected yet logical way. It begins with three dancers dressed practically in navy blue facing the back wall, quickly and intensely making writing motions in the air. The rapid pace and sometimes jerky movement conveys a sense of inner discord, as if something is happening to a body the person inside has no control over.

However, there seems to be a confidence and clarity of intent at the heart of it. The movement, although frantic in appearance, does not seem to have any particular emotion attached to it. An abrupt change in music from a driving beat to a series of spaced-out dings and percussive sounds marks a clear choreographic shift. The dancers move pragmatically over and around each other, progressing to falling and catching. The theme of writing is revisited throughout the piece, ultimately being the last audience visual. In a broad sense, it could be interpreted as the desperate yet largely unaddressed effort to create permanence in an impermanent world, manufacturing a sense of control over an incontrollable environment.

The program featured three guest artists performing solo works to their own choreography. Masterfully crafted and developed movement combined with expertly executed technical performances demonstrated the undeniable excellence of these artists. Jeffrey Foote’s Acapella, Annamaria Mazzini’s Cet Air, and Gary W. Jeter II’s Stayed are all distinct in aesthetic, dynamics and music choice, providing prime performance examples for a range of dance styles.

The final piece, Annmaria Mazzini’s The Pull of the Earth, seems to illustrate a world harboring a fundamental deficiency. Seven dancers grouped together are broken apart on a single beat like a set of billiard balls on a break shot. Haunting strings and dissonant chords musically reinforce the feeling of something being amiss. One dancer is singled out repeatedly from the group but is always drawn back in. The piece has an overall fullness to it; the number of dancers physically fills up the space, the movement itself is often big and earnest and the 21st-century classical music sounds like it could score a physiological drama film. Whatever the imbalance in this world, whether it is political, social or a representation of a single person’s inner conflict, the piece seems like an embodiment of the very human and sometimes painful process of striving for resolution.

The effort to bring awareness of local and nearby artists to a non-metropolitan area is challenging. The quality and diversity of works in the concert proved that interesting and engaging art is sometimes closer than one would think.