This year's choreography concert by HSU dance majors neatly balances technical ensemble work with emotionally immersive solo and duet pieces. The evening is a given for modern dance lovers, but the inclusion of work by theatre-based choreographers Keili Marble and Lizzie Chapman should also make this an appealing event for those who enjoy "The Vagina Monologues" or "The Last Five Years."
The university's annual spring dance showcase, which continues this weekend, includes seven group pieces, three solos and one duet. Last Friday night, the most realized ensemble dance work was arguably in the show opener, Carrie Walpole's "As One," which addresses women's roles and power. (Think "Hunger Games" without despair, performed to movie music by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.) Those with a taste for the edgy may prefer instructor Laura Muñoz's "Living with Thirst," in which five disturbed ragdolls are repeatedly crushed by an unseen maleficence, or Kelly-May Roberts' exploration of evil (or is it anxiety?) in "Best Kept Secret." The latter uses voice-overs, stage fog, mildly strobing lights and a case of nervous hives to evoke hidden emotional realms. But don't fret -- "Vibora" is here to oscillate your fears away, as dancers become soundwaves inside the soothing melodies of Ian Taylor.
Solo work is critical to the strength of this production, with each of the three soloists entering unique territories, untouched by the others. Walpole presents a sinuously emotive solo danced to "This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight" -- bringing a welcome dose of lyricism to the otherwise modern feel. Dani Gutierrez owns enough gravity to hold the rest of the show in orbit; if there's a superhero hidden in the cast, she's likely your woman. Her piece is vaguely reminiscent of an Olympic ice skating routine: cohesive and highly charged. Actor/dancer Keili Marble tackles body-loathing in a gutsy exposition of her own flesh, with a little help from Tina Fey and an astute use of stage space.
One piece lifted the bar of the evening well above student work: choreographer Lizzie Chapman's duet, "Innermost Secrets." This relational diagram of early love and acute vulnerability collapsed distance and time. In three seconds, Walter Fogler became more emotionally engaged than most dancers manage over an entire run, his face as expressive as his feet. Kara Ajetunmobi met his energy with depth, hesitance and tensile strength, creating an unusually beautiful moment between them.
Kudos to Greta Stockwell for flawless illumination; dance lovers will appreciate light design that reinforces movement across the stage so clearly. As in past years for this annual show, music selection continues to challenge performers (and audience); that said, some choices were particularly effective. Hear and see it for yourself, this Thursday to Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at the HSU Van Duzer Theater. Tickets: 826-3928
-- Maia Cheli-Colando