Last week, an annual performance was presented by a selected number of talented undergraduate dancers and choreographers, taking place at the Claire Trevor Theater.
The title, “Physical Graffiti,” was taken from Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album of the same name. Sharing the themes of new and young, this showcase seemed to feel like a grand debut for many of the dance department’s students. As part of a required course for many students who plan on graduating with a BFA in choreography or performance, this show brought out the best of what they currently had to offer.
The artistic director, Loretta Livingston, stated, “They’re not coming here to learn how to dance. They’re coming here to learn how to build on a practice they already have.” What these students have built up to with this performance is a deep and resonating spectacle.
The show consisted of 13 dances, each one unique in their style of audio and visuals. The combinations of costumes, lighting, music and dance style for each number felt like separate worlds telling different stories. I found meaning in some more than others, but this was simply based on my own perspectives.
One of the highlights of the show was “The Things We Carry,” choreographed by Lani Yamanaka. Out of all the dances, this one seemed the most sensual. Dancers Raymond Neval and Tracy Shen intertwined their bodies together in a powerful elegance. What started out as Neval carrying Shen, ended in the same way. Based on their movements, combined with the subtle green lighting and spotlighting done by Kristin Neu, this number told a story of conflict and affection between two lovers; something that I’m sure much of the audience knew all too well.
Progressing into Act 1, “MASTERS OF CHAOS,” choreographed by Shirine Rehmani, was particularly captivating. Walking out in what looked to be traditional 50’s American dresses, six female dancers performed with their own suitcase, leading to a climax of throwing everything in those suitcases out into a pile, only for them to be rearranged and picked up again. A tale of perseverance, this all female group was perfectly in sync, establishing perfectly in sync, establishing their rigidness and hardships as they leapt across the stage.
Diving into the second act, “Girlfriends” by Ho-Ming “Angus” Wu was one of the more lighthearted performances. Starting off with Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a group of five female dancers slowly came out. What was of great importance was a mat on the middle of the stage.
While a number of the dancers were in the background, crawling or struggling to walk, the others were on the mat, slowly moving their arms and legs as they elegantly flowed from one pose to the next.
The audience was then hit with a double whammy of Aretha Franklin when the song switched to “Respect.” While the dance became much more energetic, it all culminated in an end in which the mat was removed and the women were seen scared and nervous as to what to do next. It was sassy and headstrong, but also revealing, and very true.
While every dance was equally terrific, I found the ones mentioned here the most relatable in some way. I’m sure each person in the audience had a differing viewpoint. I spoke to Livingston about this briefly before the show, and her response was something I could not have put into better words.
“What the art maker brings into the work is one thing and what the viewer brings into the work is another and somewhere in there is a very human endeavor of making meaning of that.”