January 20, 2006
The open-armed and inclusive dance organization, City in Motion Dance Theater, annually joins together notable local modern dance artists to show their work in the grand but intimate, historical downtown theater the Folly.
A two-page program note offered one of the most touching experiences of the recent A Modern Night at the Folly. The "History of the New Dance Series" by City in Motion Founding Artistic Director Randy Barron lies on the final two pages of the show's program. Barron details the humble but determined journey, showing us the roots, the inception, the discouraging obstacles and the enormous amount of love that went into transforming bare bones studio concerts to formal, yearly productions on the stage of one of the most charming theaters in Kansas City.
On Jan. 14, the performers danced expertly, the choreography delighted the eye, but the real triumph lay in the breathtaking accomplishment, the decades of dedication that led the City in Motion concert series from a dream to the Folly.
A Modern Night at the Folly engaged a number of local companies and dance artists, including the dance program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, aha! dance theatre, Kacico Dance, the 940 Dance Company out of Lawrence, KS, the City in Motion Dance Company and Quixotic, a company formed by Kansas City Ballet dancer Keelan Whitmore. Several of the dances' program notes listed acknowledgements to alternate companies for the use of their dancers — some of them dance for more than one of these groups.
The first half of the show was notably strong. The opening dance, "House of Yesterday's Events," performed and created by Tuesday Faust, evoked mystery and showed profound creativity and risk. In a billowing dress, Faust began by demurely opening two white curtains that immediately turned into screens for video footage. She danced with and against images of herself on the screens, sometimes disappearing behind one while her "shadow" image continued dancing, other times swooping through the stage space while her video doppelganger accompanied her. "House of Yesterday's Events" played with memory, toyed with elegance and playfully experimented.
UMKC Dance professor Sabrina Madison-Cannon choreographed the following "Come Together." The chiseled physiques of six remarkably skilled male dancers sliced the space around them. The crafting of the motion showed sensitivity and unpredictability. The dancers extended their bodies with soul, fell and rebounded from the floor with risk, and infused expression into even the simpler movements. The audience audibly gasped.
Susan Rieger, artistic director of aha! dance theatre, had the unenviable task of following "Come Together" with her dance "Lying, Stealing, Cheating." The choice in program order was right. Where "Come Together" wowed us with impressive athleticism and demonstrative virtuosity, "Lying, Stealing, Cheating" developed ideas with keen intelligence.
Using four dancers, most of the piece centered around relationships, usually two onstage duets. Subtle phrasing with pushes, pulls and some deftly executed rolling lifts built to shoves, percussive antagonism and more broken motion. Rieger braved more humorous turf with the piece by including a tango section, another manifestation of a dancing duet fraught with threat.
Michelle Diane Brown, founder and artistic director of Kacico Dance, danced a clever comic solo titled "Restless Leg Syndrome." In a white unitard adorned with fur-like strips of fabric on the legs, she got laughs by playing with and against Edvard Grieg's music, rustling the leg fabric and proficiently mugging with fine comic timing.
Susan Warden ran a modern dance company out of Kansas City, KS from 1984 until 1990. The Susan Warden Dancers became the first from the Midwest to receive a Choreographic Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. After disbanding her company, and after an absence from the area for several years, she returned and in 2004, took over the direction of the Lawrence Company Prairie Wind Dancers, now named 940 Dance Company. Her work, "Coffee Clutch," though a light, comic ditty to close Act I, showed the most maturity. A wonderful slapstick piece about caffeine addition, Warden filled the space with clearly motivated movement, surprising lifts and a wry musicality to the sounds of opera singers doing Verdi.
Unfortunately, the Act II offerings of A Modern Night at the Folly failed to match the quality of the opening dances. Jennifer Medina's solo, "Facades of an Indeterminate Nature," however, was an exception. She moved with expressive containment, lightness and a somber reluctance.
Malinda Crump's "Work Harder, Stupid" managed to fill the stage space with seven dancers, but predictable patterns and tired movement choices blunted its impact.
A Modern Night at the Folly ended with a huge disappointment. Keelan Whitmore used his dance "Frauala" as an opportunity to show off rather than to create art. The dancers all appeared courtesy of the Kansas City Ballet, and all shine in their profession. Modern Dance, however, is not Ballet. Though barefoot, their bodies failed to dance into the earth, a noticeable problem in a concert otherwise filled with trained Modern dancers.
The energetic, dexterous and live percussionists accompanying the dance merely added to the dance's failure; the grounded, African rhythms sounded odd beside these sinewy, stuck-in-the-air waifs doing straight-legged steps. Multi Media/Film designer Anthony Magliano and Live Video Operator Adam Seitz added the element of videography, and it brought with it all the problems the dancing had. Where Faust used video with consciousness, Magliano and Seitz employed it as a random display of skill, similar to the aesthetic of Ballet. Both the choreography and the videography made the statement "Look what we can do."
City in Motion's Student Showcase will be Sat., Jan. 21, 2 p.m., at the Academie Lafayette. Their 20th Anniversary Company Concert will be April 29 at the Gem Theater. Call 816-561-2882 or visit www.cityinmotion.org.
aha! dance theater will perform "Wardrobe" Feb. 3 in conjunction with a photo exhibit by Deanna Dikeman at the Society for Contemporary Photography, 520 West 23rd St. Their Folly concert, The Sensation of Falling, will be April 8. Call 816-523-6732 for more information.
940 Dance Company's New Works Concert will be May 5 and 6 at the Lawrence Arts Center. Visit www.940dancecompany.org.
David Ollington can be contacted at Ollington@aol.com.
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