Ballet Showcase II finds perfect balance between contemporary and classic

What do the game Twister, Britney Spears and fiddling all have in common? All play a part in the U Department of Ballet’s Showcase II, which opened last night and continues through Saturday, Feb. 21.

The Department of Ballet puts on Showcase twice a year — once in Fall Semester and once in Spring Semester. Students choreograph the pieces, students perform in the pieces and this semester, students even direct the lighting. All of this student involvement requires a great deal of work and time spent outside of classes. Dancers have to work Showcase rehearsals around department classes, academic courses and rehearsals for the department-wide production later in the semester.

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Because Showcase II features student work, an enormous variety of styles and expressions spring from the individual choreographers. Some pieces are contemporary, while others stay true to the technique of classical ballet. Dancers wear pointe shoes, flat shoes, socks or go without footwear entirely. Costumes range from traditional tutus to sports bras and shorts. This array of different takes on the art of ballet is what makes Showcase such a fun show to watch.

Hearing the music the student choreographers choose is almost as much fun as seeing the steps they set for their dancers. This semester’s selections include songs crooned by Elvis Presley, jazz standards, instrumental selections and, as mentioned earlier, a medley of Britney Spears hits. The choreographers all do a great job utilizing their music to enhance the performances of their dancers.

Some semesters, Showcase leans heavily toward contemporary choreography or toward classical ballet. This spring, Showcase II contains a fantastic balance between the two, with beautiful traditional pieces counteracting the more daring contemporary performances. Some pieces also fall somewhere between the two poles, seamlessly blending contemporary moves with traditional lines and pointe work.

The upbeat pieces in Showcase II are a joy to watch. Many of the dancers smile and genuinely look like they’re enjoying themselves as they leap, twirl, roll, run and bourrée across the stage. “For Those Who Seek It,” choreographed by Claire Schraidt, celebrates time spent and memories made with friends. The three dancers in Charlotte Kelley’s “Rollick” glow as they spin and jump to the fast rhythms of fiddle music. A fairytale comes to life in “Juvenescent,” choreographed by Laura Skold. The Britney Spears-inspired piece, Lauren Prendergast’s “Werk,” is sure to get the audience moving. All of this energy and excitement is infectious.

Continuing the general balanced feel of the performance, Showcase also features a number of more solemn pieces. One of these that really stuck out was “Shift,” choreographed by Meredith Jones. The piece starts and ends with sequences performed without music, which focus the audience on the fluid motions of the four dancers. Between these a cappella segments, the gorgeous instrumental music floats through the air with the performers. Add the warm, glowing lighting of the piece and something spectacular is born.

Anyone looking for a fun weekend activity should consider attending Showcase II in the Marriott Center for Dance, tonight at 7:30 p.m. or tomorrow, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. The beauty and power of live ballet is available to U students for free with a UCard. If you want to know more about the choreographic process, the student choreographers will be holding a talkback after the Saturday matinee and a reception following the Saturday evening performance.

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