SOTA’s dance concert included eight lone performances

By Farah Bassyouni Apr 28, 2023

Starting Wednesday April 12 and running through April 16, the School of Theatre Arts presented dis•joint•ed, the Faculty Choreographed Dance Concert or FCDC. 

The show consisted of eight pieces, eight choreographers and twenty-one dancers from all three performance focused degree tracks in SOTA. As the title suggests, the piece was not designed with one overall theme imposed over the entirety of the concert. 

Each piece had different concepts, stories and styles setting it apart from the piece before or after. Concert Director Anna Corvera’s first piece was entitled “Hydrosphere” and had the titular symbol represented by a swimming pool of light in its opening. 

Though beautiful and ethereal in both the technique of the dancers and its technical elements, the theme of “an individual’s unique role on Earth as well as Earth’s unique role in our solar system” felt lost to this author, in the cacophony of movement that seemed to be more for the sake of movement than the telling of the story. 

Jessica Riss-Waltrip’s “Burn” presented three women in corporate attire tap dancing on tap boards laid over the vinyl Marley dance floor. The issue presented by this piece was the sound boards themselves. Placing tap boards atop a vinyl flooring inevitably sucks up the sound created by the boards. Therefore, it was often difficult to hear the taps by the three dancers. 

Waltrip’s second piece, “Incessant” was a favorite for this author and the audience of Friday night’s performance. The lighting design used created a chiaroscuro effect when hitting the haze also used during the piece. This created strips of light that, in the tradition of chiaroscuro, emoted the feelings of being trapped and aided the sharp movements by the dancers on stage. 

This piece also contained a very distinctive concept, the idea of being trapped in one’s own mind, wound up in expectations. The song, “Ghosts” by Two Shell, was the perfect choice to accompany the piece, as the dancers feel more and more like ghosts of people themselves. Molly Daly and Ian Thatcher, Ballet Mistress and Artistic Director of the Peoria Ballet Company, presented “Lux Aeterna.” 

Though beautiful to behold, the piece lacked a story or clear concept, containing high stakes drama but never elaborating on why that was the case. Ballet in itself is considered one of the most beautiful dance forms in the world, so to commend the piece for at least being beautiful seems a bit redundant. “Common Ground,” choreographed by Wendy Marck, was everything I had been waiting for. 

It had a story, distinct individual characters, clearly was fun for the dancers partaking in it and felt confident enough to break the fourth wall, taking the audience along with it. Akin to the musical Stomp, the piece chose to use the tap dancers themselves to create the beat, showing off the skill level of each dancer, giving each a challenge and a good time. Lauren Warnecke’s “The Let Go,” to quote the choreographer’s note, “interrogates stages of grief whilst separating from unwanted or unneeded attachments.” The piece was by far the longest in the show, clocking in around fifteen minutes. 

But, the piece, at least in my opinion, bettered this, as nothing felt rushed or unexplored. The opening felt like a renaissance painting come to life, drawing from George Balanchine choreography. The actual “let go” of the piece came in a revisit of a school dance previously explored in the piece. This time, rather than lapsing into negativity on it, the piece chose to use Howard Jones’ “No One Is To Blame” to give the final cathartic release that the piece had been building to. Anna Corvera’s “Pachamama” and Jessica Deahr & Daniel Gibson’s “The Grow Up” are the two pieces I have left till the end of this review to explore. “Pachamama” was an exploration of Bolivian folk dance and Quechua rituals. “The Grow Up” was a hip-hip piece exploring the theme of meeting and growing with new people as one’s life progresses. 

Both pieces contained great displays of technical skill by the dancers on stage. What they made me think about, in the back of my mind, was the makeup of the dancers themselves. I, personally, loved “The Grow Up,” and considered it a great showing of a dance form that, though once belonging to one racial group, mixed and mingled with Latinx and even white culture to become the art form that it is today. “Pachamama” had a cast of seven men, two of whom were Latino presenting, with the remaining five being white.

 This would not have piqued my interest so much had the dancers not been wearing traditional Bolivian clothing, supplied by the choreographer. These two pieces were a great discussion point after the fact, with the use of cultural transactions in an educational environment coming up as a matter of debate. 

It is a multi sided debate that deals a lot in gray area, as there is never one straightforward answer. This is good to be discussed in the world of dance, which often gets forgotten as a modern performing art that can be moving as it is controversial. 

This should, however, not take away from the performance of the dancers, with most truly doing the best they could in handling the choreographer’s culture. 

Overall, dis•joint•ed proved to be a well received, if under attended, closing to the School of Theatre Arts main stage, faculty led productions. 

Coming next:

  • Celebration (Music Theatre Workshop Production): April 28-29 in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater
  • Philemon (Music Theatre Workshop Production): April 29-30 in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater
  • SOTA Shoppe: April 30 in the Phoenix Theater

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