Matthew Wagner, Artistic Director of “Dance Works 2021” and Assistant Professor of Dance and Musical Theater, presents a mix of works from faculty, students and communities to an arts-hungry audience emerging from a sabbatical a year and a half.
The show opened with a quintessential parody of a ballet lesson, choreographed by LilaAnn Coates White. This piece was presented in three parts scattered throughout the show. The remarkable Erin Clark had a great technique. Clark always used good rotation (external rotation of the hips), stretched well between the legs and demonstrated smooth movement.
“The Big Scare in the Big Easy,” choreographed by Willa Gulstrand, another parody, was reminiscent of the 1970s cartoon Scooby Doo. Lighting designer Braden Kowalski did a great job bringing bold vintage geometric shapes to the backdrop that framed the dancers well.
An interesting piece, “Hotel California”, choreographed by Bettie Schultz, had very nice choreographic elements. The body started in a two-row half-silhouette by a left-side sidelight. Along with most of the dancers in black, the one woman in red stood out nicely by contrast. This piece had nice port de bras (port of arms) while filling the space nicely. Although I can see why Schultz chose the acoustic guitar intro version of the music, the live recording with the noises of the audience distracted the room itself.
The upbeat “Go Big or Go Home,” choreographed by Jaclyn Nessett, was great fun to watch. The dancers had good energy on stage, but sometimes seemed to be waiting for the music. Lighting designer Andrew Norfolk almost used his lighting as a percussive medium that brought the scene to life.
“Day by Day” was the loudest tap track on the show, choreographed by Danielle Mattson and Matthew Wagner. Mattson, who performed “Day by Day” with clear and loud sounds, kept a great time with his fast riffs and back-ups. Kylee Berude’s “Exile” was by far the cleanest and best executed choreographic work. The movement contained both axial and locomotor movement, good use of space and the relationship of the dancers, and even energy. All in all, an excellent piece.
The dancers of 218 Dance Project stole the show. The pint-sized dancers performed a lyrical piece that blew my socks off. With the choreographic genius of Courtney LaPlante, the stretchy little dancers jumped, twisted and turned with artistry beyond their years.
Overall, it was an enjoyable show that showcased the work of faculty, students, and guest artists. The costumes and lighting helped highlight the narrative and set the mood. The show offered a nice variety of ballet, contemporary, lyrical and tap dancing. However, all the spoken parts were very hard to hear and an insert with the names of the guest performers and choreographers was missing.
If you are going to:
Or: Marshall UMD Center for the Performing Arts
When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: tickets.umn.edu or at the door $5 – $20
Kelly Sue Coyle reviews dance performances for the Duluth Newsstand.