Keeping on their toes

By By John Boyack

By John Boyack

With inspirations ranging from Henri Matisse to Rosie the Riveter and including cultural diversity from Beijing to Australia to Texas, this semester’s student-created Ballet Showcase II managed to link together creativity and choreography in its performance last weekend at the U’s Marriott Center for Dance.

For the showcase, dance majors took the director’s chair amongst their peers, directing and choreographing for the first time what many had been conceptualizing over several years.

From the 38 original auditions to the 16 finalists, the showcase dancers have worked to refine their ideas since the close of last year’s showcase in October.

The semi-annual opportunity to direct each other in this type of setting is often the first for many dance students.

Second-year graduate ballet student, Matisse Madden, set-up a movie screen-sized digital backdrop featuring a different piece of art each night from Henri Matisse’s collection.

A one-time student in France herself, Madden drew inspiration from the artist’s own showcase and brought that inspiration to the stage with a unique performance of her own titled, “Louange l’extrieur Nice.”

“Ballet is so different,” Madden said. “It’s so fleeting. Unlike still art, it leaves an impression, but then it’s gone.”

U ballet student Hannah Beach took the song “Damaged” from the musical group Plumb and converted the emotional message into tones of physical dissonance.

Beach and co-choreographer Olivia Kunst respectfully displayed the vulnerable story of rape, belittlement and the difficult undertaking of coping with monumental tragedy.

Interwoven with the showcase’s contemporary influences were examples of classical technique and choreography, culminating with a performance by Ballet West alumnus Tong Wang and partner Kristin Hakala.

The duo’s piece, “The Last Autumn,” based on a song by Philip Glass titled “The Median of Time,” was inspired by a recommendation from Hakala’s mother, Wang said.

Using a terrific display of unity, the two dancers connected brilliantly, portraying the mixed feelings and emotions found in relationships. With a light set up in the deep corner, stage left, the two danced toward the unknown, with Kristin risking exit first, leaving Tong cold and alone while the music and lights dimmed.

As Hakala explained, the dancers were interested in demonstrating change, and specifically broke the piece to end separated, leaving the audience with a feeling of loss.

The 14th performance of the night, a theatrical showcase titled Rosie the Riveter was a piece aimed at feminist commentary.

Selecting students with theatrical performance backgrounds, sophomore ballet student Cortney Wild arranged a playful satire, equipped with appropriate costumes and pertinent props.

“I was dancing in the kitchen awhile back to some big band music, and just began envisioning the life of a neurotic housewife,” Wild said. However, it wasn’t until she picked up Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” that the idea completed itself.

Hoping to remind the 21st century audience that issues of feminism are still contemporary, the conflicted namesake riveter is tossed to and fro by her accompanists, four dancers clad in traditional red, white and blue dress. The dancers even strip Rosie of her industrial wardrobe and independent voice, leaving her exposed and returning her to the kitchen before Johnny comes marching home again.

Other performances of the Showcase featured modern dance and lyrical jazz, all buffered with tremendous examples of classical technique. Throughout the evening, complexities of modernity were woven into the tapestry of classical ballet, even classical music, creating a historic harmony tracing the advancements of technology and culture into significant fixtures in the realm of fine arts.

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