Kanopy Dance Company's Martha Graham: In Her Footsteps
As I made my way to three performances by Madison's best dance groups over the weekend of Feb. 6 -8, I imagined the city's talented dancers and choreographers leaping over snow banks and gracefully avoiding ice patches to make it to their respective theaters.
Friday night the UW-Madison Dance Department presented their faculty concert, Breath, at the rejuvenated Memorial Union Theater's Shannon Hall. The department offered six works; most explored issues confronting women.
Marlene Skog's elegant Dionysian Sea featured my favorite dancing of the night. The seven dancers often returned to a classical ballet position, but sunk into it, distorting it. Standouts in the first-rate cast were McKenzie Wisdom and Joyce Gaffney. Diana Sussman composed and performed the siren's song score inspired by a piece written in 1938 for the dance program.
Chris Walker's work Still, there is time, featured live percussion and projected text with startling statistics about sexual assaults on campus. Sarah Schwab brought fury and power to her role while the other dancers covered their eyes, ears and mouths.
Set to jangly Italian music, Kate Corby's ladylike began as a sweet frolic, amplifying gestures and poses that often convey femininity (smoothing a skirt, pushing errant hairs aside). But it moved into darker terrain when the dancers repeated catcalls from their own experiences in Madison. It ended as the dancers formed a wall and directed the verbal assaults to the audience.
Play-á-Pose from department chair Jin-Wen Yu was a multi-site collage of video, music and dance that referenced fashion's fickle runways but lacked Yu's typical sharp focus and restraint.
Saturday evening Madison Ballet's Repertory I offered four diverse works. at the intimate Bartell Theatre The company's repertory offerings are a good introduction for newbies or a fun sampler for die-hard fans. Artistic director W. Earle Smith made smart choices in showcasing the company's strengths.
Am I My Brother's Keeper from General McArthur Hambrick included some indelible moments, but the shifting tone between somber and playful was disconcerting. The six dancers all did nice work, but Cody Olsen, who has always been striking on stage, showed increased confidence and sharper skills.
In a lovely little ballet, Un Bolero Azul, choreographed by the UW's Yu, the well-matched Annika Reikersdorfer (a promising high school student) and Jackson Warring (compact and dynamic) played with the bolero rhythm.
Jacqueline Stewart's Jiffy Pop was a sexy and sinewy romp, as the dancers cavorted in monokinis and short briefs.
Smith's new work Nuoto ("swimming" in Italian) took a winking look at beach-blanket fun. It was polished and self-assured, including an ode to a rubber ducky and a "cheeky" squabble over a beach towel.
I ended my weekend of dance at Kanopy Dance Company's Martha Graham: In Her Footsteps on Sunday afternoon at Overture's Promenade Hall. Co-director Robert Cleary's playful piece, In Her Footsteps, shook things up by pairing pop music with movement phrases and exercises from Graham's pioneering technique classes.
Co-director Lisa Thurrell performed a somber solo, Bonewash, from Stanley Love as Laura Nyro's cover of "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" played repeatedly.
The entire cast shined in poignant selections from Graham's Appalachian Spring. Graham's work still looks revolutionary 70 years after its premiere.
Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Miki Orihara revealed both strength and vulnerability in the gestural solo Memory Current by Adam Barruch, to live accompaniment by pianist and composer Senri Oe.
Miserere (Have Mercy), the best work I've seen from Thurrell, stunned the audience. And Juan Carlos Díaz Vélez enthralled in his solo and tender duet with Olivia Rivard, who was also excellent.