The UI Dance Program’s 2017 Fall Concert “Form and Transform” began its four-day run in the Hartung Theatre on Thursday Nov. 2. The hour-long performance is a thought-provoking and powerful experience that proves you don’t have to leave Moscow to find top-notch artistry. The $8 student ticket or $10 general ticket is well-worth admission to a concert that anyone can connect to regardless of their familiarity with movement arts.
The concert embraced a range of interpretations within a modern-contemporary dance style and gave UI dance students the chance to perform before an audience early in the school year. Choreography came from UI Dance Program faculty as well as two guest artists.
The overriding theme “Form and Transform” was an elegant but subtle influence throughout each piece and the concert as a whole — performances jumped through themes of light, love, restriction, labels and joy, but felt connected by the idea of transformation.
The concert began with a duet choreographed and performed by co-Dance Program coordinators Belle Baggs and Melanie Meenan. “Through the Shadow” was a mesmerizing use of silk screens to display a cycle between light and dark. The “form and transform” theme was well represented as the dance grew from slow, deliberate movements to a smoother flow throughout the piece.
One unusual feature of the concert was its inclusion of the screendance “Enso.” “Enso” is a dance for camera choreographed by Faith Morrison, one of the 2017 guest artists. Morrison’s film was an exploration of the sand dunes in Florence, Oregon and made an interesting statement about the distinctiveness of the screendance style. While it easily could have come across as awkward to interrupt the flow of the concert with a dance in a completely different medium, Enso provided a thought-provoking contrast that worked with the explorative nature of the concert.
While the other performances were fleeting in nature, with the dancers hitting their movement forms and transforming when the moment ended, Enso is captured so that each moment can be replayed over and over. The impermanence of the dance art form doesn’t exist in the same way within the genre of screendance. With the ability to slow down time or draw attention to a single limb or movement due to the filming techniques of screendance, Enso is a simply stunning performance that plays with imagery of waves through grass and sand, in the sea and across bodies.
The first dance to include student performers, “Fragile Hearts,” told a love story from the sweetness and lightheartedness of a new relationship, to the push-and-pull compromises that come with a long-term partnership. The piece was choreographed by Baggs and featured five dancers. Opening with lifts, flips and jumps that conveyed a lightness of spirit, the weightlessness of the first section was soon replaced by determination and a sense of exertion. The stark division between the different sides of the experience of love told a story that even non-dancers could see reflected in the movements.
The pieces choreographed by the two guest artists were drastically different from each other. While Morrison’s piece, “Within Limit,” conveyed a sense of constraint and personal limitation through constricting partnered movements, Spokane-based artist Vincas Greene set his dance to Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso in B Minor, Op. 3 to explore mentalities of joy and playfulness. Where Morrison’s choreography was intense, forceful and striving in energy, Greene’s had dancers engaged in a whimsical work that carried a child-like sense of unabashed curiosity.
One piece was serious and desperate, the other included comical head pats, eye rolls and even open-mouthed pointing. However, both were executed with such a level of expressiveness on the part of the performers that each easily found their respective relevance to the theme of transformation — Morrison’s conveyed a mental and physical overcoming of personal limitations, whereas Greene’s was an emotional transformation between variations on a state of pure joy.
The dancers maintained an expressiveness throughout the concert that made the stories within the different choreographies and dance styles work. One of the most powerful pieces in the concert was a solo titled “Beneath the Surface.” Performed by Lisa Nikssarian and choreographed by Meenan and Nikssarian, the movements were guided by a series of personal labels projected on a screen.
Her movements told a story that is almost universally recognizable — a struggle between conforming one’s idea of self to the exterior labels that come with genetics and experience. Fluctuating between proud acceptance and desperately rubbing at herself as if attempting to remove an unwanted label, Nikssarian’s piece ended on an empowering note. In the final moments of the dance, she came to the front of the stage and threw her shoulders back in the full spotlight. Her own voice came over the audio track and declared, “I’m Lisa, and I get to choose.” The feeling and weight of that liberating moment was well worth the ticket price by itself.
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
UI Dance Program Fall Concert 2017 “Form and Transform”
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 to Nov. 4 and 2 p.m. Nov. 5
Where: Hartung Theatre
Cost: Tickets are available online at www.uidaho.edu/ticketoffice, at the UI-Ticket Office located in the Kibbie Dome, or for the 30 minutes before each performance at the Hartung Theatre. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $8 for students.