Graduate Students’ Escape Through Dance

Don’t speak! Not a word. Just let the rhythm of the beat guide your body to the sounds of the music and escape into ‘Dance Escape,’ a UC Irvine dance department production.
From April 26 to April 28, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts featured an ensemble of talented student performances and graduate student choreography collected within a two-hour show. Dance Escape was a series of short dance pieces each lasting from 5 to 10 minutes. Each segment had its own style, varying from a passionate cyber-tango to the romantic nimbleness of a flock of ballerinas who swept the audience into a world of pure art in motion.
‘Life and Death Struggle,’ choreographed by Emily South, featured a company of girls in black and red tutus who floated onto the stage with the presence of a dark and melancholy ocean. One after the other, each ballerina swayed her body to the dramatic background music. Some fell to the floor while others hovered over the fallen. The image was beautiful and horrific at the same time, and recreated the tension felt through the battle onstage as each side struggled to conquer the other. The choreography matched the tempo of the music so well that it resembled nothing so much as a moving painting.
Another amazing piece was ‘Avatar,’ which bravely combined a traditional tango with modern technology to produce a truly contemporary dance. There were only two dancers, a man and woman wearing glittery, matching outfits. As each partner performed this dance of passion to the sounds of a techno remix, digital images projected onto the opaque backdrop, creating something like a virtual-reality ballroom. Somewhere in the middle, a partner left the stage and was substituted by a digital replica of the dancer, in the form of a compilation of colorful dots on a screen that resembles a human form dancing in sync with her partner. The separation from the physical and the digital was so well-paired in this act that such obvious differences between who was dancing with whom became irrelevant. The effect is breathtaking and impressive, giving the already sultry tango a sexier flair.
For those who are not familiar with modern dance, ‘Dance Escape’ might have been hard to follow. Certain pieces were completely abstract, and with little in the way of spoken language, the dances became very open to interpretation. Even so, one could still appreciate the use of the stage and the synergized uniformity of every performance.
Lighting was a crucial factor in producing the stunning effects of the pieces, which highlighted and guided the eyes to follow each muscle on these moving bodies. Music directed the feelings behind every act and a colorful array of costumes completed the show by decorating the presentation as a painter would with paint.
This year’s production successfully brought to life an escape into the fantastic. The night ended on a very light-hearted and playful note with ‘Thine Soul is the Colour of my Fingernails (black),’ choreographed by Lauren Thompson. This piece was played to the sound of Mary Schneider’s ‘Clarinet Polka Yodel.’ The dance paraded a line of dancers dressed like punk rock zombies who danced the polka on stage with the enthusiasm of an emo kid at a heavy metal concert. Though short, it brought laughs from every audience member in the room and applause for the achievements of all the talents behind the production.