BWW Reviews: Groundworks Dance at Cain Park and Fall Dance Previews
GROUNDWORKS at Cain Park; future dance programs
(Member, Dance Critics Association)
Dance has long been perceived as an art entertainment for the wealthy, educated and performance trained. Terms such as "fifth position," "adagio," "camber," "shag," and "pirouette" are foreign to most people. Dance styles such as hip hop, Tango, jazz, Samba, and Broadway may be terms that have been heard, but not known as a specific type of dance. This combination has made attending dance programs a "no go" activity for many.
This perception seems to have changed lately with the advent of such television shows as DANCING WITH THE STARS, but most importantly, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. The latter takes unknown dancers trained in a multitude of styles, and puts them into an "American Idol" competition with dance judges explaining what the contestants are doing and why they are proficient in specific styles. Thus, the vocabulary of dance, and the appreciation of the athletic nature of this form of the arts, has made the art form more popular.
An awareness for the role of choreographers also has been nurtured, and names like Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh, MAndy Moore, Travis Wall and Tyce Diorio have become known, and their talents highlighted.
This new awareness places additional pressure on local dance companies to produce higher quality performances and more creative and broader classifications of dances as audiences understand what us happening on stage.
As overheard between several people at intermission of the recent GROUNWORKS DANCE Cain Park concert, a question arose as to why local companies, some of whom are short on proficient male dancers, don't tap into the SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE performers, not only the finalists but even some of the more proficient cast offs. Also discussed was, "how about doing some of the works of the program's innovative choreographers, which are often seen only once and then thrown onto the choreographic junk pile."
This is not to say that GROUNDWORKS, David Shimotakahara's little troupe of 5 needs overhauling, but realistically Damien Highfield should be getting near the end of his long dance career, and though Gary Lenington is moving more easily since he has adjusted his body size, the artistic director may soon be needing to search for some new males. As for the females, he is in good shape. Felise Bagley is still the best female dancer in town, adorable and dynamic Noelle Cotler has nicely replaced Amy Miller, and Annika Sheaff is a strong soloist, but her height and movement profile sometimes make it difficult for her to blend with the petite Cotler and Bagley.
Performing before an appreciative opening night house in Cain Park's Alma Theatre, Groundworks' performance was a nicely balanced program.
BEFORE WITH AFTER, a 2003 piece by Shimotakahara, with composed music by J. S. Bach, found the dancers flowing to the classical sounds, with the movements clearly paralleling the rhythm. The piece acknowledged life's encounters, crossed and re-crossed relationships in what might be termed "physical poetic responses to Bach's compositions." Highlights included classic movements by Bagley, appealing facial expressions and body creations by Cotler, and athletic actions by Sheaff.