The Beauty of Dance Visions

Dance Visions, the dance department’s only faculty show of the year, by artistic directors Chad Michael Hall and Tong Wang, gave audience members an enthralling, eye-opening experience. Attendees got to watch six different pieces exhibiting a multitudinous of dance styles, from classical ballet, to an interpretation of the indigenous legend of the “Skeleton Woman.” The show ran from Feb. 22-24 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, and consisted of work from the following artists: Tong Wang, Diane Diefenderfer, John Crawford, Donald Mckayle, Lisa Naugle, Chad Michael Hall and Lar Lubovitch. The beautiful dance visions from these choreographers were performed by a plethora of phenomenal dancers for all of UC Irvine to witness.

The first piece left audience members in awe as they were transported to the Kingdom of Shades from La Bayadère. Originally choreographed after Marius Pepita, the piece was reconstructed by Tong Wang and Diane Diefenderfer for 30 amazing dancers, with eight leads, or soloists. The dance was nothing short of astonishing; performers wore serene white tutus while accomplishing an astounding number of arabesques, all in pointe shoes, within the first scene of the piece. The romanticism of the original ballet was transcribed beautifully by the dancers, and even though the piece required so much strength, they all executed the work seamlessly. The fascinating struggle between power and beauty within the piece is described by second year dance major Jenna Fleming.

“Bayadère is definitely a difficult ballet to execute because it’s very technical and requires a certain level of precision. [However], with such a large corps de ballet, it’s nice because we have this community feeling where we are constantly cheering each other on,” said Fleming.

This same precision can also be seen in choreographer Lisa Naugle’s piece “Space Between.” The dance had a live performer, Mari Kimura, a leading figure in the field of interactive computer music, to provide them with the beautiful melodies of a violin. The performers not only had to be in sync with their bodies and with each other but also very connected to the live violinist to make sure no note was unaccounted for.

The show took a fascinating turn with “Pointe-Blank,” a piece designed by artistic director Chad Michael Hall to the music of David Karagianis’s “Dangerous Moves.” The piece showcased a more acrobatic side of the dancers as they performed a variety of twists, jumps, and even some inversions and somersaults all while being on pointe. The piece required extreme stamina and power, and the dancers had to bring an edge-like persona to this performance. The piece also introduced the idea of taking a certain stigma and expanding upon it.

First-year dance major Kyla Chaney shares, “We did modern in black pointe shoes so that was very different than what you’d see because the minute you put on a pair of pointe shoes, people automatically think ‘Oh she’s going to do ballet’, but it wasn’t the case at all for this one. We showed how we could be strong, graceful, grounded, as well as right on top of our pointe. This idea of beauty in strength is something that’s so relevant in the dance world today.”

The most intriguing dance of the night may have been world-renowned artist Donald McKayle’s “Death and Eros,” the entry into his piece “Story Dance Theatre.” The programs handed out to the audience members described the true meaning behind the piece, which was “a movement illumination of the legend of the Skeleton Woman, an Inuit tale passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation,” as well as sharing the inspiration behind the creation of the piece. McKayle commented that in the Inuit myth of the Skeleton Woman, he “found the mystical power of the life/death/life cycle in human relationship and the nature of love with images that stirred up [his] imagination and deepened my understanding, hoping it will do the same to the dancers and the audiences.” The magic of the legend was interpreted through the dancers; their bodies shared the delicate, yet playful qualities of the human soul as well as expressing the ability of the mind to create wonders out of the imagined.

Ultimately, Dance Visions captivated all, whether you were a participant or audience member, being a part of an art form so influential was the true takeaway from the experience.