Dancing in the dark

The past year hasn’t been full of good news worldwide and people are becoming more politically aware. The performances this year from the UAA Dance Club reflect students’ concerns and views on current events.

Every spring semester the club performs a series of dances choreographed solely by UAA students. “New Dances 2005,” which in previous years has been called “Voices,” is a collection of choreography that particularly reflects discontent and unhappy emotions.

One of the choreographers, Chandler Noyes, explained his piece as being based on the disillusionment, especially with Americans, in politics.

“This show has never been this dark before,” Noyes said. “We are all reflecting on what is going on in the world around us and we aren’t happy with it.”

This year is less diverse than previous years since most of the pieces seem to share a depressing message using comparable body movements. Each piece is full of intricate hand movements and gestures and less footwork. Many of the pieces might be similar because the dancers spend so much time together, seeing each other in dance ensemble nearly everyday.

The show is a lengthy two hours and 15 minutes with only 10 pieces. Most of the pieces are well over 10 minutes long. One of the longest pieces was by Noyes.

“I find that it takes me about 15 to 20 minutes to develop an idea,” he said.

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Noyes’ piece, “A Memo from the Twentieth Century,” contained the most articulate message. Based on the text “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot, the dancers use a combination of voice, movement and music to create a story about the evolution of man and technology.

“I’m really interested in pulling together different mediums in my dances because of my background in theater,” Noyes said.

Katya Kuznetsova’s Latin infused piece, “Cruzada,” combines her background in ballroom dancing with fluid modern movements. The piece was performed at the American College Dance Festival Association’s Northwest Regional Conference in March and won first place. The adjudicator of the conference said the piece had a meandering quality to it as if it were an all night party, which was an interesting observation because the close-knit group of UAA dancers had indeed been partying all night. It is clear that choreographic process for these students tends to have direct influences on whatever is going on in their lives at the time.

Choreographer Christian Stagg said her piece, “Rapt,” was a reflection of overwhelming feelings she was having about society. Stagg’s feministic piece was of six girls with chairs wearing bloomers and flowing white dresses.

“I was thinking about a lot of things and feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “I was thinking about what we do about being overwhelmed. There are different ways of escapism, some of which are not always good for you.”

The most exciting piece of the show was by LaShonda Williams called “Cradle Narrow Traces the Chaotic Slate.” The dancers enter the stage in ninja-esque fashion wearing all black including a black blindfold. The girls arranged their hair in angles that reflects the piece’s powerful and sharp movements including rail slapping and an assisted flip. The choreography is based around African drums that beat a five-count measure. With the drums, the nine dancers move in lines using up the entire stage with spatial floor patterns.

Not all dancers feel the need to make a statement through dance. First time choreographer Walter Barillas presented a pleasingly lucid and sexy dance called “Peacocks” that he said has no personal message. With five performers dressed in different shades of green, the dance has a fashionable feel. The best part is when Walter himself walks across the stage trailing a pretty peacock tail.

“I wanted my dancers to enjoy themselves in this dance so I gave them a lot of artistic control,” Barillas said. “I let them make the choices on movement.”