By Judith K. Steel, Associate Professor, VCU Department of Dance and Choreography
Saturday, April 2, 2016
The event showed huge camaraderie and collaboration skills among all of the performers. I enjoyed the 'scenes' approach to having one large thematic thread supporting the efforts of different choreographers. The dancers are strong movers! I appreciated the maturity and expressive skill RADAR employs.
By Kevin LaMarr Jones, Community Correspondent for DanceRVA
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 3:00 p.m. RADAR’s Third Annual Spring Concert at Dogtown Dance Theatre offered an afternoon of thought-provoking, fully-engaged work.
The early evening concert was separated into two sections. The first section, Enough, included a quartet of dancers dressed in intricate white tunics and choreographed by guest artist Shannon Hummel. The concept presented was rather striking in that the four dancers used only the downstage right corner of the dance space and performed without audio. They were arranged in a tight row, on their knees for most of the dance, and exhibited facial expressions, small gestures and arm movements that both deepened and grew until they became bothersome for their neighbors. In near silence, and with only the dancers’ compact space being lit, the minimalist nature and understated tone of both faces and bodies was extremely engaging and particularly attention-grabbing when the dancers switched places and roles, in effect, developing into four very unique personalities.
After a short pause the concert continued with GRID, a seven-part exploration through movement of texts by renowned designer, Josef Müller-Brockmann, who espoused about the power of visual grid systems in creating and growing a design.
Megan Baker, Kara Priddy, Laura Gorsuch, Kendall Neely and Lauren Morris each choreographed the sections of the work. The segments were distinct in their movement quality, number of dancers and spatial manipulations. What united the chapters were
1) a short horizontally-striped dress as a costume for the 11 or more dancers that danced in and out of the pieces;
2) a score that mixed silence, strings and electronica with varying tempos and moods;
3) some very inventive and strong transitional moments between each segment;
4) the fully embodied, committed dancing from the entire cast and
5) the occasional live, spoken voice just offstage with quotes from Müller-Brockmann:
‘When used properly, a grid will never limit or confine a design, it will grow and adapt to your liking. If someone tells you a grid gives you no freedom, that person doesn’t fully understand the purpose of a grid or how it should be used. Grids are flexible and allow for an infinite number of possibilities.’
These words and others of Müller-Brockmann were spoken at various times during the 20-25 minute ‘grid’ exploration and seemed to provide a message among the abstract dance movement that structure and imposed limitations can lead to creative discovery.
Well, the grid worked. RADAR demonstrated that the team approach to presenting a concert of powerful, thought-provoking and entertaining work gets results. All of the dancers and choreographers should be proud of such a strong, polished presentation.
Seeing a dance show may not be a typical Saturday afternoon's artistic fare, but this is the kind of production that would make one want to add concert dance to the menu of creative options.
- Kevin LaMarr Jones is an RVA-based dancer, choreographer and graphic designer and is the Artistic Director of CLAVES UNIDOS.
By Carli Mareneck, A Founding Memeber of Trillium Performing Arts Collective
It brings me great pleasure to reflect on the premier of Unravel at Dogtown Dance Theatre. This collaborative concert length dance deserves to be seen far and wide.
It is rare when “modern dance” can grab and keep an audience as this work is designed to do...for the entire 45 minutes.
The audience is first struck by the set, already lit, awaiting the performers. Thick, white nylon ropes criss cross the stage, suspended on many angles accentuating the width and depth of the stage space.
A single dancer enters from the audience, wrapped in rope, and disappears back stage. Mysteriously the stage fills with 8 soloists, intent in separate worlds expressed through gesture and full body movement. Seemingly spontaneous connections unfold; moments of unison movement between several dancers punctuate and delineate the overlay of strong solos. We are riveted.
The dance progresses unfolding quartet, trio, solo, duet, each strong and evocative. Throughout the ropes are stretched, lowered, wrapped, removed and re-hung as an integral part of each dancer’s journey.
Images remain weeks after watching:
Soloist - precariously walking a rope on the floor then diving into articulate, fierce, low shapes like a tight coil with power to spare.
Trio - passionate full bodied dancing over and under the jungle gym of ropes only to suddenly stop and hold our gaze for long moments, letting us into their world.
Quartet - accumulating power of 4 dancers falling in and out of tightly constructed contact duets, catches and falls that make us catch our breath.
So many elements were brought together to enhance the through-line concept:
The ropes served successfully as set, props, and partners. They became a tactile, physical metaphor used to deeply explore the balance between connection and entrapment in each woman’s journey.
The sound score was well constructed. The intensity of the instrumental segments was lightened by interspersing old vocal tracks. The lyrics offered historical insights into the theme without overstatement.
The maturity and proficiency of the performers drew us in and kept us riveted. The costumes were simple, evoking pedestrian life and human drama yet enhancing the full and passionate dancing of these talented women.
The piece concludes with 8 of the dancers seated across the entire downstage, joining us as audience, watching the original soloist as she stands far upstage, still wrapped in her rope looking out at us from behind 4 evenly stretched lines of rope. We all witness her predicament.
And so the quote:
Those who do not move
do not notice their chains.
Bravo to RADAR on the clarity and mystery of this fascinating and successful new work: Unravel.
- As a founding member of Trillium Performing Arts Collective, located in Lewisburg, WV, Carli Mareneck has spent the last three decades continuing to broaden rural access to the field of modern dance. Her work has been shown regionally at universities, theatres and numerous festivals. Throughout her career, she has continued to train with influential teachers in dance and kinesthetic learning. In addition to her work as a dance professional, she teaches workshops on learning through the Arts for public schools, conferences and teacher trainings.