By Chloe London
This Saturday, the Student Dance Organization (SDO) presented their second annual student-choreographed show: Dance Works. Having the opportunity to present it in The Union Ballroom, SDO decided to create a four-sided theater, leaving the idea of “front” open to interpretation. This unique viewing experience layered with moody lighting and informal transitions kept an intimacy that connected each piece.
Starting the evening was a solo I choreographed on Alanna Ackert titled “Beautiful.” Dressed in a man’s polo shirt embellished with an American flag and a bald eagle, Ackert began by quickly smearing red lipstick over her face and haphazardly throwing the tube into the audience. As she went on seemingly unaware of her actions, the tune of “Beautiful Girl” from Singin’ in the Rain narrated the piece. Ackert trampled around the stage flashing smirks that morphed into dramatic yawns, a verbal tantrum, and spurts of clunky movement. Being contorted by the music, her personality shifted with the female-stereotyping lyrics, creating an obvious sense of irony for the amused audience. In a deep curved stance with both arms out in front as if lost in the dark, Ackert left the stage with another increasingly growing yawn. As the music ended, she suddenly stood upright and walked out in an unaware bliss of the mayhem she just created.
The next solo had a smoother tone to it, yet kept a presence that pierced all four-sides of the space. “Pause” started with dancer and choreographer, Lynea D’Aprix in a regal upright pose, carving the space around her and sending it spiraling down her body. Circular twists were prominent, with a suspended back-bend visually arcing her negative space into two distinct parts. As she transcribed the choreography in a diagonal pathway, the intensity of her far-off gaze kept me intrigued. She translated her body’s yearnings into an external intensity coupled with swirling and pushing motions contacting with her surrounding space. D’Aprix then suddenly ended the dance. Satisfied with the traces of her movements smoldering in the air, the audience stayed engulfed in a fiery essence.
Choreographed by Sarah Elardo, the duet “Harmonious Solicitudes”swung into motion. Danced by spunky movers Nicole Grigonis and Andrea Montez, the piece opened with a blast of gestural arms and legs that took their stoic torsos along for the ride. Playing with relationships, Elardo had the two bodies continue to alter their emotional connections ranging from warm smiles to internal concentration. These varying presences were painted over by swells of pulsating phrase work and spatters of running that kept them transforming every inch of the stage. Although their bodies swam through multiple facets of dynamics, the strong bond Grigonis and Montez shared illuminated their unison moments and fluctuating proximities.
As the duet came to a close, Skyler Bell’s trio “Suspended Focus” took charge. Alanna Ackert and Emily Copeland accompanied Bell for this visually satisfying dance. This work had a striking framing of three technical bodies cleanly performing musically inclined movements. The driving high-pitched female voice helped to spotlight the suspensions between their high kicks and grounded lunges. With a clear vocabulary codified in this dance, Bell structured a duet versus solo format engulfed in the timing of movement phrases. The slicing clarity of Bell’s choreography kept me visually pleased, captivated, and constantly questioning my visual capacity.
As three ladies left, five took their place in an equally ferocious world of virtuosity. Brooke Armstrong, Emily Gerst, Nicole Grigonis, Andrea Montez, and Christina Williams performed “In Execution (Excerpt)” created by Jordan Lloyd. Intrigued by the human body submitting to daily commands, Lloyd used a tense sound score ranging from alarming rings of noise to fluid strings of harmony. Each musical layer controlled his dancers’ entrances, exits, and transitions between movements. Lloyd’s decision to keep the five diverse movers in almost complete unison enabled me to understand how one set form of choreography reacts to being placed on varying physical aesthetics. Watching each mature mover tackle the manipulation of both the movement and music was a beautiful and startling experience.
Changing the tone, Andrea Montez’s “Previously Benched” came on with a bang. Danced with palpable sass, Mia Martelli and Logan Mitchell grooved on and off a bench to “Down with the Trumpets” by Rizzle Kicks. Manipulating their shirts and sweaters with the movement patterns, the two powerful bodies flung themselves into falls and extensions throughout the space as if immune to gravity. With the two never breaking their teen angst personas, the dance highlighted both Martelli and Mitchell through solo moments that seamlessly transitioned into powerful unison sections and swift partnering. The space continued to transform with both dancers indulging in the bench, moving me into a world of two teenagers showing off in a public park. Montez tried to take risks with her choreographic abilities, and using a prop was a gusty move. To me, she succeeded by keeping the bench connected to the dancer’s performance practices and clearly creating an imagery-stimulated scenario.
As we left that groovy world, Marissa Subik winded down the space in her tranquil solo “Untitled.” Skimming the ground with the qualities of a tumbleweed, Subik elegantly crafted her work to a somber monologue from the movie American Beauty. Although influenced by the emotions the narrative raises, Subik’s merciful presence kept me wrapped around her fluid body that presented a calm connectivity her focus rejected. “Untitled” was built around the motif of a limping wave towards the sky with Subik’s body contorted in an oddly satisfying backbend. Seeing the world she lives in mirrored back at her, sorrowful warmth encompassed her delicately grounded movements, evoking an eerie sense of comfort.
Lastly, Roberta Guido’s “Opening” commenced as she casually walked on to the stage with a notebook in hand and placed it in front of her kneeling body. Guido experimented with being fully connected to performing in an improvisational context. Her body reacted to spoken phrases she picked from her notebook prior to the event. The organic beauty of watching the favoring and rejecting of certain words on a physical platform educated me on the difference between emotional wants and kinesthetic wants. By discovering an unknown dance experience with the audience at her side, Guido gifted me with the purest form of performance. Her truthful demeanor left me craving to explore my own personal connections between the verbal and the physical.
As the evening came to an end, my eyes, mind, and dancing body were stimulated with a swarm of information. The variety of movers that took the stage in performance and choreography at this year’s Dance Works was a great representation of the numerous intellectual and physical inquiries the dancers here at The College at Brockport are creating and exploring.