Seen Through Dance
Entertainment, live music and elaborate costumes filled the Claire Trevor Theater as UC Irvine’s Dance Department put on its annual dance performance, “Dance Visions,” last Wednesday through Sunday. With each piece displaying a different form of dance, “Dance Visions” presented the raw talent of the students that walk this campus daily.
The show opened with UC Irvine’s Symphony Orchestra beneath the stage, generating tunes, and a single cellist sitting on stage, as a group of dancers on pointé made their entrance. This piece, entitled “Soaring,” choreographed by artistic director Molly Lynch, resembled that of a true ballet company with the dancers creating great lines and illusions using every extension of every limb. Each movement was light and sustained as the dancers switched from dancing in unison to dancing in a canon with purple, pinkish hues lighting the stage. There were a few timing mishaps throughout the piece, but the symmetry and fluidity of the performance overpowered any flaws. The powerful lifts and impressive leg strength awed the audience. The climax of the dancing matching the powerful melodies from the orchestra created a perfect harmony.
The next piece, “Little,” choreographed by Loretta Livingston, differed greatly from the first. This modern take on dance had the all-female cast of dancers dressed as middle-class immigrants, lacked music, and had a surprisingly great amount of dialogue. In fact, most of the sound was free sound recordings all done in a foreign language. This was an interesting take on modern dance with the incorporation of a narrative about female immigrants, their struggles, their journey, their chaotic lives. The majority of the dance was done in unison with a few soloists breaking off from the group and exerting their earthy movements and angular lines. Powerful. Dark. Strong. These adjectives sum up the essence of the third piece. “Substrata,” choreographed by Chad Michael Hall, was a powerful piece that displayed the pure strength of the dancers, for the dance included incredible acrobatic lifts that made my core sore just watching. A lot of movement was done low to the ground — in fact, on the ground — with dancers striking sharp, dramatic poses all while barefoot. Their blown-out hair, leather costumes and dramatic make-up also added to the depth of the piece.
There were times when the performance resembled that of a squad of military men marching in unison, yet trying to fight their authoritative superiors. It was a fresh take on contemporary dance, exuding lots of asymmetrical shapes and bound movements and the lifts executed by the pairs of dancers were absolutely astonishing. The choreography almost mimicked the lifts acrobats perform at a Cirque du Soleil show — very impressive.
The first performance after intermission had a lot of action and a lot of drama. “Dragon Dances” incorporated an Asian flair with the classics of pointé, the modernity of contemporary dance and the theatrics of drama. This spirit, a dragon, would take the lives of innocent beings as her devoted followers, and her minions would crowd and attack one poor soul. I appreciated the narrative, but I could not help but feel sympathy for the dragon’s followers, as they had to dance completely masked like ninjas with their form-fitting unitards. I had to fight my urge to go on stage and offer them some water or a towel. Choreographer Tong Wang created a piece that displayed the perfect compilation of both ballet and modern dance into this mini skit about the ruthlessness of a dragon.
The final piece, “EVEN as the RIVER and the SEA ARE ONE,” choreographed by Donald McKayle was very light and lengthy. Again, this piece combined the delicacy of ballet with the creativity of modern dance. The costumes really drew the eye with fabrics hanging from the dancers’ shoulders to resemble the fluidity of a river or a sea. This dance was complex; there was a lot going on. The patterns and use of space were the strength in this piece, especially with the number of dancers on stage. There was movement at low, middle and high levels, constantly giving the audience something to look at. Closing the show with this dance gave the audience a little bit of everything: a variety of dance, a pretty set full of color to indulge in, and the chance for the dancers to showcase their skills and talents.
“Dance Visions” was a success, punctually wrapping up after two hours of entertaining dance. For only $11, it was a better way to spend my Valentine’s Day evening than my original plan to sit at home and watch Netflix while eating a pint of ice cream.