New Visions On Poe’s ‘Red Death’

‘Eclectic’ is the word that I would use to describe the collection of pieces at Dance Visions 2006. Unless you’re a fan of the traditional and classical dance performance, the show displayed a variety of pieces to satisfy fans of all kinds of dance.
Usually known for its showcase of faculty choreography, UC Irvine’s dance department presented Dance Visions at the Irvine Barclay Theatre from Feb. 9 to 12.
The audience’s attention was captured by the first piece, ‘Which Way Out?’ choreographed by Dave Massey. Performed to music by Korn, this jazz piece was one example of the athleticism of dancers.
The next piece shown was ‘New Sleep,’ choreographed by William Forsythe and reconstructed by Douglas Becker. This pas de deux, which originally premiered in 1987 by the San Francisco Ballet, is a signature Forsythe piece consisting of extremely challenging movements that the UCI dancers were able to execute successfully. There were no frilly costumes or distracting set pieces; the plain black leotard and black tights allowed the silhouette and lines of a dancer’s body to be accented.
Another stunning piece of the first half of the show was Donald McKayle’s ‘I’ve Known Rivers.’ This is piece based on Langston Hughes’ poem, ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers,’ third-year dance major Stacey Aung was flawless in this piece, successfully exuding the modern movement but also showing the emotion behind the piece. Although the pianist, Alan Terriciano, and vocalist, Darryl Taylor, were onstage with Aung, it was surprisingly not distracting.
The audience was able to get a taste of Becker’s own choreography with the piece ‘Extreme Memory.’ This contemporary ballet really explored the construction and deconstruction of movement. Although the music was extremely dissonant and at times unpleasant, the movement made up for it.
The first half of the show ended with UCI alumna Amanda Nora’s piece, ‘Urban Intersection: A Choreo-Musical.’ Choreographed to Ray Charles’ ‘One Mint Julep,’ this jazz piece was fun and extremely entertaining. The costumes were bright and the energy of the dancers was so strong that it made the audience want to get up and dance as well. The only downfall of this piece was that it was too short, leaving the audience yearning for more.
And finally, the last half of the show was McKayle’s world premiere of ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’ based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe. For months, I have heard nonstop about this piece and I couldn’t wait to finally see the finished product.
Poe’s story is about Prince Prospero who invites everyone to his abbey to enjoy themselves, not to mention hide from the plague or ‘red death’ that is taking lives all throughout the country. In the end though, Prince Prospero and his guests cannot escape death.
The costumes and scenery for this piece were absolutely magnificent, all of which transported the audience in Prince Prospero’s abbey.
Prince Prospero, who was played by Robin Buck, associate professor of music at UCI, performed the libretto.
In general, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ was an extremely theatrical piece that even incorporated video backdrops.
I think it is safe to say that all dancers do a degree of acting when they dance. While ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ did have choreography in it, I felt that the dancers were called more to act than they were to dance.
Dance should be able to stand alone and, therefore, I could have probably done without all the fancy theatrics. Perhaps Poe’s story could have been printed in the program instead of the libretto because I did not feel that the singing helped to enhance the performance. Nonetheless it was satisfying to see this piece and end my curiosity. Great dance was certainly not lacking in Dance Visions 2006. And to make things even better, I only had to buy one ticket, as opposed to last year where there were two different programs.