‘Visions’ of the Past and Future

UC Irvine’s dance department is sharing in the festivities of the important half-century milestone of our university. One of the top 10 dance programs in the country, UCI dance has been part of the university’s legacy from the beginning and this year’s annual “Dance Visions” showcase pays a special homage to the “Bright Past” and “Brilliant Future” of the last 50 years and the next 50 years to come.

The show, which took place from Feb. 11 to 15 in the Claire Trevor Theatre, took its audience through different worlds and time periods. The opening piece named “As you wish…” was choreographed by faculty member Tong Wang, who began the journey in the dance studio. The piece was a frothy, pastel-skirted, pointe piece reminiscent of the classical style of ballet, but ornery trouble soon struck.

One ballerina began her own unorthodox movement as a solo. Soon, a second competitive, fast shanae-ing ballerina tried to steal the spotlight. While a third, more mature ballerina, stirred the pot in a dizzying fashion. Soon, all three ballerinas were in a contest to outperform and outdazzle the others.

Male dancers were also integrated, creating seamless partner work, which emphasized both the ballerinas long extensions and her partner’s strength.

Utilizing a live pianist and a simple ballet bar as a prop in the upstage right corner, the piece had perfect comedic timing and fantastic performances from the three spotlighted dancers, as well as the rest of the company.

The second piece transported the audience into an apocalyptic world. The Claire’s large screen, or scrim, had been lifted, and the gray, bare rock of the shell of the theater’s building became the perfect backdrop for an expansive, cold, harsh atmosphere.

The choreographer, Shaun Boyle, worked in collaboration with her dancers to create an athletic piece that demanded attention with its dynamic levels and movement. At one eight-count, the dancers were moving with high-strung momentum and at the next one they were painfully slow, pushing and pulling with great effort and strain, grabbing at their cheeks, foreheads and necks.

The third and final faculty creation was called “Uprooted: Pero Replantado.” It was a powerful portrayal of immigration, paying homage to those who leave behind a familiar community to survive in a new land. It was birthed from the mind of Donald McKayle.

Similar to our pesky trio of characters from “As you wish…,” “Uprooted” also featured a marvelous trio, but of a different tone. One primary, male dancer was in serious, constant conflict with his two other counterparts, who were acting as weights, dragging and pulling him down. The conflict was very easy to read and the style was sharp, innovative and enrapturing.

The end section of “Uprooted” featured a powerful spoken word. Ending on a strong note, the piece rang with defiance and screamed that the land of America belongs to everyone, even those who have immigrated.

“The Brilliant Future had been completed in the first act with the three faculty pieces, in the second act we give homage to our Bright Past,” said Molly Lynch, the artistic director of the show. “I chose the ballet ‘Billy the Kid’ because it was choreographed by founding chair, Eugene Loring.”

Lynch, herself, had the opportunity to study under Loring during her years in the dance department.

The wild west was immersive for the audience, as the scene opened with rough, bowlegged cowboys, feisty gun girls, conservative housewives and even some sultry can-can dancers.

The ballet followed the tragic story of Billy the Kid, whose mother was accidentally shot when he was young. Becoming an outlaw and killing men, Billy wanders lonely and occasionally cheats at cards. A manhunt, a prison escape and an epic dream sequence of a far distant sweetheart create a story that any John Wayne could produce.

“Loring was being visionary and quite experimental when he choreographed (Billy the Kid), and I think it is very representative of our own faculty today and the brilliant future we have,” Lynch said.