BWW Review: NEW DANCE PARTNERS at Carlsen Center
It is always gratifying to see an art form evolving in real time. This reviewer has made no secret that she feels theatre is at its best when it is breaking new unexplored ground. It was therefore entirely worth braving the storms last night to see "New Dance Partners", a program of premiere pieces presented at the Johnson County Community College.
First on the program was "Fly Girls", choreographed by Catherine Meredith and featuring the Störling Dance Theater. This is a very interesting piece, talking about the early history of women in aviation. Think Amelia Earhart and her contemporaries. A very interesting music mix with Josephine Baker and Dinah Washington, and in between multiple sound recordings of the women themselves, clipped from the age of radio. The choreography was very fanciful, and worked well to evoke the moods presented through the music. The sequence involving Ms. Washington's "This Bitter Earth" was particularly moving. A very strong start to the evening.
Next was "Assembly", a piece by Gregory Dolbashian with the Owen/Cox Dance Group. A very modernist work, the revolt of 20th century dance being carried forward into the 21st. Of particular note is that the music is also composed by Mr. Dolbashian. This reviewer is particularly fond of such works, as it means the music and movement both have come from the creator's vision, rather one being made to conform to the other. In this case, both were stark and compelling, and it will be interesting to see what else this gentleman creates in future.
Third was "Silently Screaming", created by Frank Chaves and danced by the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. This one, unlike its predecessor, cleaves close to classical roots, albeit with an entirely modern feel. It felt almost visceral in places, flirting with sensuality but always keeping just a touch of distance. Of note is the occasional use of silence or near-silence within the piece. This is not something one has seen often in dance, but when used well (as here) it can be most effective.
The last performance on the program had the Kansas City Ballet dancing to Myles Thatcher's "Umbra". This was a very striking piece, discoursing on the difference in inside and outside perception: the self we see in ourselves versus the one seen by others. Someone once said that there are as many of you as there are people who know you. "Umbra" explores this concept with radical movements and effective storytelling. Of particular note is the use of masks as an effective stage device. This proves a very strong finish to the evening, and well in line with the rest of the program.
Overall, it was an excellent night. Some excellent chorographic and dancing talents were on display, and four very different approaches to dance. The evening's works, commissioned by JCCC's Carlsen Center, did not exist only a month ago. The talent behind bringing them to life between then and now is quite apparent, and it is to be hoped there will be more opportunities like this in future for both creators and we, the grateful audience.