it’s no secret how much m. & i love the art of dance & last night we attended one of our favorite yearly dance events, the national choreographer’s initiative held at the barclay theater of the university of california’s irvine campus. each year 4 choreographers from around north america are invited to come to uci, along with 16 dancers from companies across the u.s., to work on any project that they wish, over a 3 week period, ending with a one-time only performance of the, most often, work-in-progress.
we had secured tickets for the front row of the balcony, our favorite place to sit for dance as you have a clear view of not only the dancers, but also of the patterns & movements created by the choreographer on the stage floor below.
it is a thrilling theatrical experience because of the unique opportunity to see how the language of dance is interpreted by the 4 choreographers. last night was no exception. as ann marie deangelo (one of the 4 choreographers) said last night “it’s the ‘ography’ part that interests me, the dialogue between movement & space.”
helen heineman’s “pieces for eight” began the evening, set to eric ewazen’s “sinfonia for strings” it was a beautiful, lyrical interplay of classical ballet movements cunningly integrated with contemporary attitudes. it set the mood & tone for the evening as the other choreographers also explored (some to a greater degree) the past & envisioned the future through their own particular lenses.
peter quanz from toronto gave us a ballet that he has devised for a premier in tokyo later this year during a lunar celebration. “luminous” was richly realized & accompanied by the music of marjan mozetich’s “affairs of the heart.” he revealed a magnificent understanding of the relationships we encounter, build, nurture & destroy each day of our lives.
each dance lasts approximately 15-20 minutes & after the intermission we were treated to a new work by the russian choreographer viktor kabaniaev who is currently based in northern california, but teaches here in orange county (judging from his exuberant fan club of young women he is much loved.) “series of unrelated events” was a playful nod to the russian comic tradition (circus! clowns!) & was delightfully interpreted by the dancers. it’s lighthearted tone was a counterpoint to the very complex movement he had organized. the dancers obviously enjoyed themselves, but worked very hard (not that you noticed) to bring a level of nonchalance to the piece. much spontaneous applause & laughter filled the theater throughout his work. it was set to excerpted music from jon hopkins’ “insides.”
finally, the producer, director & choreographer, ann marie deangelo presented “the process: discovery & integration.” of the four dances, this was the most ‘theatrical’ integrating not only movement but sound & acting by the dancers (at the beginning of the piece, the dancers provided beat-box music to which they all danced–fabulous!) & although lighthearted, a pas de deux in the middle of her piece was exceptionally touching & brilliantly danced by thomas ragland & his partner adrienne benz.
all of the dancers were stunning, but two of the men really stood out: andrew brader & ted keener. bravo gentlemen!