‘Physical Graffiti” Showcases Talent

Undergraduate choreographers and dancers at UC Irvine showcased their creativity, dedication and sheer talent last week during the Department of Dance’s annual performance of “Physical Graffiti” in the Claire Trevor Theater.

Courtesy of Skye Janel Schmidt

Courtesy of Skye Janel Schmidt

The show consisted of 13 different numbers and incorporated a wide variety of dance styles, ranging from classical ballet to modern and jazz. Under the artistic direction of Loretta Livingston, an award-winning contemporary choreographer, dancer and associate professor of dance at UCI, the show was choreographed entirely by undergraduate dance majors.

While each piece was superbly danced and choreographed, one of the main highlights of the show was “Return to Sender,” choreographed by Bret Yamanaka and performed by Yamanaka and Kaitlyn Nguyen. This piece expressed the narrative of a young couple in love during a time of war, and pulled at viewers’ heartstrings with emotional themes of love and loss. Opening with the song of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, Yamanaka entered the stage dressed in a military uniform and a letter in hand. Through beautiful, fluid contemporary movements, audience members could tell how much this character missed his significant other who was waiting back at home, and how he hoped this letter would ease some of the pains of being away.

The dance then shifted focus to Nguyen, who executed excellent technique as she danced to Ella Fitzgerald’s “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” and did a wonderful job of portraying a genuine, honest character. Yamanaka and Nguyen then danced a lovely sequence together, representing the happiness of a reunited couple and the pain of being torn apart again. The piece then ended on a somber note, with Nguyen receiving a troubling letter at the door, implying that her love was lost in the war. This piece was excellent for its incorporation of both a beautiful, heart-wrenching storyline, and flawless technique and movements.

Another memorable piece of the night was “BYOB,” choreographed by Andrew Hallenbeck and danced by Jamie Elster, Emily Guerard, Mikensie Johnson, Brooke Lester, Ashleigh Moss, Kezia Surjanto and Miku Yoshida. This number was entirely different from the preceding parts of the show, and opened up with a dancer entering the audience and calling out, “Who’s ready for the party?!” Many people raised and waved their hands until the dancer picked one male member from the audience. The guy followed the dancer and sat down in a chair on the stage. What followed next was an interactive re-creation of a stereotypical college party, complete with enactments of the types of people who usually attend these gatherings and the actions that take place. Through sharp, precise modern movements and occasional quips from the dancers, this number gained a lot of laughs from the audience and seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The other dances did not have such an apparent storyline, and instead focused on technique, leaving meaning and interpretation up to the viewer. Natalia Garcia’s piece “Isthmus” featured beautiful contemporary choreography to soothing music and the sound of rain. Irishia Hubbard’s “Blues Alley” closed the show with a fun jazz number that radiated with energy.

Regardless of the dance style of each piece, there is no doubt that “Physical Graffiti” provided an entertaining experience and a reminder of just how much talent exists within the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.