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BWW Review: Ohio State Students Showcase Dance Skills in High-Energy DANCE DOWNTOWN Performance

Photo Credit: Jess Cavender

Students from Ohio State University's Department of Dance took to the Capitol Theatre stage Saturday night for the annual Dance Downtown event, performing pieces that touched upon myriad topics from climate change to the infusion of art and movement.

The program consisted of six distinct pieces, each with their own message that revealed itself through the choreography and dancers' movements.

The performance began on a humorous note with "18 Beginnings," a cheeky collage of the opening scenes from 18 dances. With original choreography by Mitchell Rose, an associate professor at OSU and Department of Dance faculty member, and enthusiastic stage presence by the dancers, "18 Beginnings" was a crowd favorite, especially for those in the audience familiar with the wide array of music and dance styles alluded to in the piece.

While "18 Beginnings" started the program off on a light-hearted note, the next performance, "Events and Other So-Called Virtues" -- choreographed and directed by another member of the OSU Department of Dance faculty, Bebe Miller -- encouraged those in attendance to think about the ubiquitous nature of life events and how certain moments evolve and change in our memories to become entities of their own. This piece, one of the longer works performed this year, featured thought-provoking voiceovers from "Nothing Can Happen Only Once," which was originally performed by the Bebe Miller Company in 1993.

The theme of connecting dance to larger, seemingly indefinable, concepts continued with the next work, "Let's Make Climate Change..." choreographed by Norah Zuniga-Shaw in collaboration with Oded Huberman -- both from the OSU Department of Dance -- and the dancers themselves. In this multi-modal performance, live video images of dancers reading about climate change from science magazines were broadcast as the stage backdrop, while repetitive, almost hypnotizing, movements and accompanying sound effects of tumultuous ice melts alluded to a frenzied environment calling out for help.

The first half of the program concluded with a restaging of Doug Varone's 2003 "Of the Earth Below." This high-endurance, fast-paced piece, staged by visiting artist Eddie Taketa, challenged the dancers' strength and agility while amazing audience members with the sheer intensity of the action unfolding on stage. The students' technical precision, as well as their commitment to such a physically demanding piece, made this work stand out as one of the best performances of the evening.

Photo Credit: Jess Cavender

Throughout intermission, audience members received a sneak peek at the next work, as a video showing an artist working in his glass studio played on stage. As the lights began to dim, dancers, clad in all black, entered the stage with large, clear glass orbs -- created by Jonathan Capps, a graduate student at OSU studying glass.

The aptly titled "Orb" started the second part of the program with a visually enthralling collaboration between two types of artistry -- tangible fine art and kinesthetic expression -- conceived and directed by OSU Department of Dance professor David Covey, Capps and the student dancers. The graceful movements of the dancers enhanced, but did not distract from, the gliding and swirling motions of the glass orbs, which refracted colored beams from the spotlights positioned above the stage.

The evening concluded with "Pacific Trace," a piece choreographed by Daniel Roberts, an assistant professor in OSU's Department of Dance. Another one of the longer works performed during the show, "Pacific Trace" emphasized the connection between the students with staging that allowed pairs or small groups of dancers to really showcase their skills with minimal distractions.

OSU's 2015 production of Dance Downtown continued the annual tradition of pushing the boundaries of dance and fostering the study of artistic expression in an experimental setting that rewarded risk-takers.

The OSU Department of Dance is next set to present its MFA Dance Installations during two events held at the Urban Arts Space from Jan. 21 - 23 (MFA Dance Installations I) and Jan. 28 - 30 (MFA Dance Installations II).

The department will also host its Winter Concert from Feb. 4 - 6 at the Barnett Theatre in Sullivant Hall, located on OSU's Columbus campus.

More information about the OSU Department of Dance and its upcoming events can be found on its website.

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