Last night, I got a chance to see my jazz ensemble teacher and other dance faculty perform at the Faculty Dance Concert. It was nice to see the faculty as professional performers and not just our instructors and choreographers. There were four pieces: (Not all of the dance faculty performed)
– Encounters, Katherine Kiefer Stark (modern teacher)
– Golpe Mastre de Mortal, Colby Damon (ballet ensemble teacher)
– My Name is a Blackbird excerpts, Molly Shanahan (modern teacher)
– iStand: Stories of an American Civil Struggle excerpts, Lauren Putty White (jazz ensemble teacher)
Encounters opened with two dancers in the dark wearing sweatpants with lights at the ends to illuminate just their shoes. Later, a central beam of light was used as a prop to dance around. At times, the two dancers danced in harmony and synchronization, and other times they appeared to be fighting. I thought it was innovative to illuminate just the feet for dancing, as if the feet were detached from the body and moving in the air on their own.
Golpe Mastre de Mortal was inspired by the choreographer’s friend’s battle with Alzheimer’s. I could see this connection through Damon’s use of frantic movement and labored breathe in and out of a spotlight resembling the wandering mind. Throughout the dance, he would also cover his face with his shirt, an interesting prop choice perhaps to represent the feeling of loss.
My Name is a Blackbird, to me, seemed like a dance about connecting written text to body movement and other forms of expression. Shanahan used many fluid movements and gestures that went along with the dialogue in the music. The dancer seemed relaxed and explorative of her surrounding space.
iStand: Stories of an American Civil Struggle was my favorite piece. Lauren Putty White brought her Putty Dance Project dance company to perform with her as well as her husband to play jazz trombone in one section of the piece. iStand has 3 parts: iFear, iFight, and iStand. The symbolism to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and current race relations in the USA was very clear. In iFear, the dancers started wearing black hoodies, representing how Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie when he was killed. In iFight, a dancer explored the idea of Hands Up, Don’t Shoot. iStand was a lighter section on pride for being Black and hope for the future, with a speech by Obama and live jazz trombone accompanying the dancer. The dance company performed many difficult moves, but crisp and cleanly. I instantly recognized Lauren Putty White’s distinct choreography style from jazz ensemble dance rehearsal with her.
I love watching dance performances as much as I love dancing. It was also nice to watch the faculty dance concert with my fellow dance classmates who could also sympathize with my admiration for the dance faculty. I also saw my Fundamentals of Technical Theater teachers working the tech and stage production portion of the show. At the end of the show, my jazz ensemble gifted flowers to our teacher Lauren Putty White for her amazing performance. We grew even more excited about our piece for the Spring Faculty Dance Concert because we now knew how great of a dancer/choreographer our teacher was.