DULUTH — Thursday’s dress rehearsal for Minnesota Ballet’s spring performance of “Inspire” did just that: inspire. Five very different contemporary works created by seven choreographers filled the stage for an evening of delight.
But what is contemporary dance? It is a style of dance that is rooted in classical techniques such as ballet, jazz and modern, but which mixes to become something current and new. Contemporary dance has opened the door for choreographers to break with the constraints of traditionalism.
Artistic Associate/Lead Teacher Lila Ann Coates White opened the show again with a memorable piece, “String Salutations.” A dancer enters the stage followed by a superposition of added dancers. As new dancers are added to the scene, Tchaikovsky’s music gains in intensity.
The movement of the dancers mirrors that of the score, their movements becoming feverish, rapid and undulating. Their spins from the fifth and perfect moments were breathtaking. It made me think back to White’s grand opening piece at Minnesota Ballet’s 50th anniversary performance, as well as other incredible works she created.
“Beyond Self,” choreographed by Thom Dancy and Ashley McQueen with music by Nils Frahm, was a one-of-a-kind piece with dancers dressed in different shades of gray (no pun intended). The dancers pushed, pulled and dragged each other on and off the stage. Floor work and lifts are accompanied by round, then angular shapes, followed by syncopated, then fluid movement. This piece was brilliant.
Dominique Jenssen and Sara Jumper both presented a clean technique with great stage presence. It was clear to this observer that both women are versatile and good about themselves.
LeeWei Chao’s piece “Endless” was a joint choreography. The movement patterns, composition and changes in direction spoke volumes. The dancers perfectly combined smooth, flowing movements with progressive, repetitive shapes that generated a dynamic composition. Sarah White’s solid technique and soft bearing were magnificent.
Finally, “Un Poco Divertimento”, choreographed by artistic director Karl Von Rabenau and ballet master Jennifer Miller, was a lively and joyful four-part work with music from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This playful and fun piece ended with a petit allegro velocity (quick and rapid movement) that will knock your socks off. This choreographic work gives the audience a bit of everything. Although some of the lifts were a little flimsy, the breeze flies, assemblies, cat steps and first position chains of the dancers show the audience the powerful athleticism of this company.
Thursday’s performance was an impressive variety of contemporary works. Overall, the performance was diverse, rigorous and beautiful. It was nice to see the company exploring different styles and choreographers. The clear and simple lighting and decor put the audience’s attention where it should be: on the pure movement of the dance.
Where: Duluth Playhouse Family Theater, 506 W. Michigan St.
When: 7 p.m. Friday, March 25; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday March 26
COVID-19 Precautions: Participants over the age of 5 must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the show. Mandatory masks at all times.
Kelly Sue Coyle reviews the dance performances for the Duluth News Tribune.