Thursday, July 21, 2011

Perry-Mansfield's Evening of Dance - Preview Performance July 20th

I just returned from "Camp Night" at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp still very much under the magic created by young dancers and exceptional professional choreographers. In her 11th season at Perry-Mansfield, Director of Dance, Linda Kent, has put together an outstanding program. Several days earlier we had worked on a press release and when I asked her to describe what she thought we would be seeing she described it as "an astonishing variety;" "compelling physicality;" and "amazing artistry!" Well she was right on!!! And that is just scratching the surface of superlatives that I want to use.

It featured seven new works from seven different choreographers and a special presentation of excerpts from Paul Taylor's Runes. Each piece was extremely different and challenged the high school and college dancers in a variety of ways.

The opening piece, Slow Falling, by Rick McCullough performed on pointe opened the concert and showed the technical skill of the eight dancers. Excellent partnering and performances by Ellie Swiatkiwsky and Nehemiah Spencer were a highlight for me.
Aperture by Jennifer Golonka used fourteen dancers in interesting groupings that in Golonka's words "explores our relationship with photographs and memories." It is exciting to watch how Golonka's choreographic skills have been growing from summer to summer.
Fix Up, Look Sharp by Kyle Abraham, a 2010 Princess Grace Choreography Fellow, was a quartette featuring four outstanding dancers: John Rafffles Durbin, Delana Jerry, Nehemiah Spencer, and Ellie Swiatkiwky. The young audience caught the humor and the seriousness in it immediately! The quirky fresh movement was excellently performed and I particularly look forward to seeing this piece again. (I'll be heading out tonight too.)
The first half concluded with Paul Taylor's 1975 piece Runes staged by former Taylor Company Member Linda Kent. I had caught this piece in a tech rehearsal two days earlier and was thrilled to see how the dancers had grown in just two more days of rehearsal. Eleven dancers were tightly ensembled in this evening's performance in a thrilling section of jumps at the end. They have also captured the Taylor style of movement in their four and a half weeks of studying at Perry-Mansfield.

The second half opened with an aerial piece, Sweet Beatles, created by Janet Taisey Craft. Performed by six dancers to Beatles' songs the combination of aerial movement and on the ground choreographer blended well together with a nice sense of humor that kept the audience laughing and gasping one moment to the next. The next piece by Thang Dao called Heart Play was inspired by the title and text of Heiner Mueller's Heart Play and the program notes tell us that it explores the complexities and mysteries of relationships between two people and how an individual can lose oneself when heart is at play. Thang Dao is clearly a choreographer that I look forward to seeing more from. His use of the dancers was fresh and intriguing with unique partnering, use of chairs and formations with an emotional intensity. The score by Richard Bennett and Paula Jeanine Bennett worked well for the piece.
Ernesta Corvina's On the Path has a folk ballet flavor to it set to Traditional Celtic Harp. The dancers' performances were clean and spirited capturing the mood beautifully.
The program concluded with Antonio Brown's Groovestreet Manor, filled with surprises and a sense of humor combining characterization of seniors watching TV at a nursing home with lively contemporary jazz. The dancers captured both the characterization of the senior each was portraying along with the inner child making for a playful way to end a wonderful evening that simply flew by for this audience member.

A special congratulations to the technical staff. Costumer Tamara Cobus did an outstanding job. Lighting was superbly designed by Michael Jarett with JC Clementz Stage Managing the evening.

As a Board member of Perry-Mansfield and a former alumni I am so proud of what I saw. Thank you to Linda Kent, the choreographers, and all the support staff that made this possible. If you are anywhere near Steamboat Springs Colorado, or have friends in the area, tell them not to miss this concert. It officially opens to the public Thursday, July 21 and runs through Saturday July 23 starting each evening at 8. Call 970-879-7125 for tickets.

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