A Beautiful Vision at the Barclay

Every year, a different ‘Dance Visions’ experience comes to UC Irvine featuring professional choreographers and amazing dances in a variety of styles. On Thursday, Feb. 8, people of all ages eagerly took their seats at the Barclay Theatre for the opening night of ‘Dance Visions’ at 8 p.m. This year’s show was quite a sight to behold.
This showcase of seven choreographers’ dance pieces featured works by Jodie Gates, Donald McKayle, Loretta Livingston, Carlos Jones, Molly Lynch, Lisa Naugle and Gerri Houlihan. Each choreographer has an impressive background, with experience in companies such as the Joffrey Ballet in New York City or the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.
Not only did the night feature an immense amount of dancing of all types, but live music as well. Musicians Jerzy S. Kosmala and Normal Beede on the viola and piano, respectively, played beautiful classical music to accompany the first piece of the night, and the UC Irvine Symphony was on hand to play for the final three pieces, providing a treat for both the eyes and the ears.
The show opened with Jodie Gates’ ‘Naked Exchange,’ an interesting title to go along with a rather interesting dance. Men and women in light-blue costumes gave the piece a dreamy feel that fit the combination of modern dance and ballet. Beginning with a single dancer, ‘Naked Exchange’ eventually included all 12. Much of the piece involved partnering between the men and women, with perfectly timed lifts and turns, and also utilized several curtains which sporadically rose at different spots on the stage to reveal more dancers. ‘Naked Exchange’ was a wonderful opening, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention and leaving them wanting more.
Next up was ‘Personal,’ a dance in four parts that seemed like a short play. Donald McKayle, the renowned Artistic Director of Dance at UCI, employed the UCI Etude Ensemble, a prestigious group of dancers who perform both nationally and internationally.
Featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes, the piece was anything but ordinary. The entire ensemble appeared onstage for the first part, ‘Bound No’th Blues,’ which had upbeat music and included a lot of clapping and stomping.
The second part, ‘To Artina,’ was just the opposite. A love story between dancers Stacey Aung and Phil Vicars, it was a somber yet gorgeous partnering full of emotion and woe.
‘Down Where I Am’ followed, in which Jenna Otter, clad in a country dress, spoke loud and clear with her modern dance moves which made it clear that she would no longer be taken advantage of and was at last going to, as the song went, ‘plant [her] feet on the ground!’
Last but not least was ‘The Dream Keeper,’ featuring Sharon Kung as a sort of spirit leading the entire ensemble. This dance was a great way to end the sequence. Like the beginning of ‘Personal,’ the finale concluded with the whole cast prancing around the stage in groups and at last all together, where Kung closed with a beautiful turn. McKayle’s choreography was a truly incredible masterpiece.
‘Persuasion, Not Covered’ was a modern all-female dance set to contemporary Turkish percussion music. Starting slowly at first, the piece gradually picked up, and soon the women were swaying in unison. Their crimson costumes gave the piece an earthy feel. It was unique, and exhibited Loretta Livingston’s organic style of dance.
Perhaps the best dance of the night followed. Carlos Jones’ ‘Groove: Cross Cultural Style’ was, in a word, unbelievable. Interweaving African jazz, Indian, jazz and tap, there was never a dull moment, and this number’s colorful costumes and catchy music left the audience smiling and applauding.
After a brief intermission, the UCI Symphony Orchestra settled in to play fabulous music for the remaining three pieces. ‘Conversations in Silence’ was a far cry from the previous piece. Conductor Stephen Tucker led the symphony in ‘Ecologue for Piano and Strings’ while ballet dancers clad in crimson and camel outfits graced the stage.
Next was ‘Acts of Memory.’ Naugle took the story of her grandmother’s slow demise and created an emotional dance, showing her inner struggle of coping with illness, accompanied by the song ‘Proof of Ghosts,’ composed by Alan Terricciano, the chair of dance at UCI. A large cast of dancers carried white blocks to and from the stage, representing the deterioration of the woman. A sad yet moving piece, ‘Acts of Memory’ displayed just how personal dance can be.
The final performance of the night was Houlihan’s ‘Every Little Movement.’ Having originally premiered in 1993 at the Colony Theatre in Miami, this ballet work involved a great deal of physicality, with dancers partnering and lifting one another. The piece had the dancers playfully becoming irritated with one another, providing a bit of comedy during the dance. ‘Every Little Movement’ was an enjoyable piece, full of jest and energy, ending the night on a positive note.
‘Dance Visions” wide variety of dance styles and music kept the audience yearning for more. The quality (and quantity) of UCI’s dance program never ceases to amaze, and ‘Dance Visions’ was no exception. Aside from the show being too long