What is modern dance? “Xx,” a two-part performance series, answered this question: it is whatever a choreographer desires and produces. Over the course of the academic year, the University of Utah modern dance undergraduate seniors have been taking concepts and dreams from their everyday lives and physicalizing them. The final products reflect the cumulative experiences of these artists.
Both senior concerts run about an hour and 45 minutes and feature dancers from both the modern and ballet departments in approximately six-minute-long pieces. So while the concerts present something for everyone, they move along quickly and ensure excitement on behalf of the audience members.
Variety is the name of the game. Several choreographers chose to blend styles such as ballet, hip hop and jazz into their pieces, and music choices ranged from thumping EDM to the dancers’ voices. Many paired experimental styles with graceful movements and pure athleticism. Some dances told a story or built on a singular idea while others were mainly audiovisual explosions which encouraged viewers to tap their feet along with the dancers.
The choreographers worked well with the time constraint. In past years, seniors have put together small-scale performances during the fall semester in addition to the spring semester. This year, however, they had the entire year to develop one piece. Some dances seemed like snippets of longer explorations, but overall, the benefits of an extra semester’s work shined through, leaving polished movements and complete arcs.
The shows are almost entirely student-run, and although the seniors carried out the better part of the workload, many of the dances were collaborative efforts, which means dancers contributed their own ideas, movement styles or improvisation skills to the processes. In addition, the undergraduate juniors in the department put the cherry on top with preset light cues. The lighting set the various tones (or flavors) of each piece. While some artists crafted an eerie atmosphere, others added strobe lights and bright colors to the dynamic movements.
The seniors were not required to string a theme through the entire concert, but one component of each piece permeated throughout — the connection between the dancers. Many of the pieces required a deep sense of trust in order for the dancers to perform partnering sequences. Others achieved these relationships through subtle choreographic gestures or eye contact.
After four years of developing personal connections inside and outside the studio, the seniors finally had a chance to perform onstage together in “Little Bird,” choreographed by Lauren Edson. Edson trained at University of North Carolina School of the Arts and The Juilliard School. Edson’s piece, which served as the grand finale of the senior concert, explored movements inspired by birds. The songs and poetry were gentle and the costumes simple, which allowed the dancers to stand out.
“Xx” is an outlet through which young artists have found their individuality and let it run free on stage. The first concert ran from Feb. 28 to March 2, and the second will run from March 21 to 23 at the Marriott Center for Dance. Thursday premiers begin at 5:30 p.m., and all others start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free with a uID.