SALT Dance’s ‘Spring 9’ Evokes the Season with Three New and Distinctive Works


Poster for “Spring 9” featuring dancer Aubry Mason. (Design by Sydney Franz | Courtesy SALT Dance)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


SALT Contemporary Dance closed their 2021-22 season in the Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center with the concert “Spring 9,” featuring new works from Artistic Director Joni McDonald and choreographers Micaela Taylor and Olivier Wevers. Their performances on Friday March 25 and Saturday March 26 consisted of three individual pieces — “The Quality Of,” “Feathers” and “The Right Time to Let Go.” The show was soulful, skillful and evoked that “start-of-spring” feeling we’ve all latched on to as the weather has gotten warmer. 

“The Quality Of”

McDonald expertly opened the evening with a piece that subverted expectations — the overture of Strauss’ most recognizable composition and the bohemian-meets-Regency dresses felt like they had been pulled from a ballet. While the implications of the music were classical, McDonald’s movement was fluid and connected in contemporary fashion. Dancers fell in and out of unison, creating ripples into backlit vignettes, even utilizing one of the most shocking techniques in dance: pure stillness. In the vibrancy of pastel blues and burnt oranges, “The Quality Of” oozed spring in all its changes, melancholy and ease. 


The second piece of the night featured only five dancers from the company executing Taylor’s bird-inspired movements and rapid, isolated shifts from their compact “W” formation on the stage. The piece felt unified without needing sharp precision, allowing the dancers an individuality within the almost industrial and dystopian quality of the staging. At times, dancers moved under the neon lights, designed by James Larsen, to spoken word alone, with nothing but internal rhythms and vocal outbursts to keep them in sync. One of the most interesting elements was Taylor having company members run across the stage, creating this exposed pedestrian quality around the flocking movement. 

“The Right Time to Let Go”

Closing the night was Wevers’ choreography in a soulful company piece. Opening on a empty stage, save an upstage microphone facing away from the audience, exposed by the removal of the curtain wings, the dancers began in an amorphous clump and each broke free to grab a pair of chartreuse stilettos from a pile and take their place at the mic. With their shadows large against the back wall, they told personal and moving stories of identity, depression, burnout, competition, self-esteem and hope. 

Wevers’ direction with the shoes was breath-taking — the heels acted as percussive instruments, architecture on the stage, props and extensions of the dancers’ bodies. As they were stripped of shoes and blazers, dancers Myles Tracy and Aubry Mason closed the piece, underscored by Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese.” It was raw, soft and strong — a call to, in Oliver’s words, “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”


As a unit, “Spring 9” was a feat, moving from a fresh take on classical sounds to exposing the playing space to gradually unifying the dancers in movement and in dress. I’m never not impressed with SALT Dance’s programming, and their gorgeous presentation of new works in “Spring 9” is a sign that contemporary dance is alive and well despite the pandemic, flourishing like spring itself.


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