Nine pieces, scattered laughter, bulging leg muscles, and impressive talents were the main components of — UC Irvine’s recent Dance Escape performance. This commendable display of all different types of dance, choreographed by UC Irvine’s very own graduate students, ran from Thursday, April 17 to Saturday April 19. Dances ranged from contemporary to modern to salsa, some with narratives and some highlighting the purity of the dance form. Each performance showcased a different dance form, but all ended with the same result: an awed audience and roaring applause.
The performance started off with a contemporary piece, “Shift. Click.” Dancers grazed the stage to a rural type of score with very earthy movements. The following dances were also contemporary, but with very different themes; “No Really, I’m Fine” having a theme of the weariness of a typical workday, while another piece touched on the freedom that comes with dance. A blaring commonality amongst most of these dances was the partition of dancing throughout the piece. Particularly for the contemporary pieces, dancers would initiate the dance with very limited movements and minimal space. This would last about four or five minutes. There would then be a break in the music, and the sudden shift in musicality triggered the dancers to engage in bigger, more prominent movements. It was a transition that was not only vital to these pieces, but also engaging for the audience, making each piece possess a sense of urgency and almost suspense.
Another glaring aspect of the show was the random work of ballet, “Three Movements in Blue,” that was included in the second half. After attending several dance performances, I have learned that choreographers must have to include at least one classical ballet piece in their shows. For some reason, I cannot get my mind to switch gears and fully enjoy a ballet piece after watching five or six acts of students rolling around on the floor barefoot. I suppose it’s a nice change of pace, and the dancers are talented in their pointé shoes, no doubt. But this piece just does not coincide with the remainder of the show, and I guess this break in cohesion irks me and leaves me utterly confused.
The show did end with a bang, however, as any good performance should. Ladies took the stage in flowing skirts and paisley tanks while the men flaunted the classic button-up and black slacks look. There was never a dull movement in this piece, with the dancers displaying their quick footwork doing the salsa both individually and with partners. The quickness of their feet and the rhythm in their hips called for several rounds of applause and ‘Wa-hoos!’ It was a fitting way to end the show, for it took the audience to another place, an escape if you will, which is appropriate considering the title of the show.
All in all, the show was executed in a successful way and the effects of each particular piece demanded the audience’s attention. In the piece “Illuminate” the use of faux candles and the dimly lit stage added to the setting the dancers were trying to create. The lighting was on point, particularly in “Conversations in an Elevator,” where the lighting made it appear as if the dancers were in an actual elevator. Dance Escape was smoothly executed and even the Saturday matineé was a full house, a reflection of the popularity of the dance department and the talents it encompasses.