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DANCE/Strasser: Biannual showcase illuminates choreography

by Chloe London - Staff Writer

Chloe London - Staff Writer

Tue, Mar 7th 2017 05:00 pm
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 As the halfway point in the semester creeps up, the dance students of SUNY Brockport's Department of Dance showcase what they have been brewing within Hartwell Hall in the biannual student choreographed DANCE/Strasser. This performance opportunity is audition based, for both dancers and choreographers and is curated by a professor of the department. Professor Tamara Carrasco led feedback notes, organized the program order and selected the pieces for DANCE/Strasser Spring 2017, with the help of a student selection committee, including this school year's Student Concert Coordinator Luiza Karnas. 

An audition process that highlights the dedication, professionalism and passion of the students of Brockport's dance department created an impressive presentation of both artistry and choreography. DANCE/Strasser framed students in a three-sided performance space that allowed their focused and trained bodies to morph the stage seamlessly from world-to-world as the 50-minute show quickly progressed. 

First was junior Emilia Bunich's "The Rebellious Aviary." This trio, performed by freshman Kaitlyn Owens, sophomore Claire Fisher and junior Nathaniel Diaz, sparked the focus of the audience as the dancers swam within the rich notes of the opera piece "Habanera" by Georges Bizet. Musically inclined, the trio quirkily adjusted their bodies into eccentric gestures that motored new ways of moving as they pranced through Bunich's sophisticated chaos. A lack of eye-to-eye connections created an inhuman focus within their bodies which juxtaposed their formal dresses and slacks. 

As the dance bellowed to a close, junior Mia Martelli's quartet, Roe, brought a tranquil air to the stage. Martelli presented four strong female dancers: freshman Ebony Vasquez; sophomores Jasmine Esquilin and Emilia Bunich and senior Christina Williams. Starting in a vertical line, marking the perimeter of stage right, Martelli set up a peacefully strong rhythmic sequence that led into her first piece of music "Fernando" by ABBA. The dancers' qualities paralleled her musical choices and seemed to spotlight the fact that both songs were performed by female artists. 

Roe rode on the music's harmonious strains and connotations while playing with accenting certain pulses that knocked the dancers into fierce kicks and leaps of momentum. Vocabulary of linking hands, walking back into line and allowing each other enough room to be together in unison as well as demonstrate individual awareness colored Roe in a gently fierce environment of community uprising. 

Abstractive narratives continued to outline the arc of DANCE/Strasser as junior Ashley Green's "Are YOU There Yet?" impacted the stage. Freshmen Rachel Steinkamp and Emily Conn, sophomore Alicia McDonald and junior Wylmer Cruz engagingly performed her quartet. A striking beat hits the audience's ears, with the connotation of a heartbeat.  The lights lift to a striking image of McDonald, wearing a nude bra and briefs, Cruz naked and grabbing McDonald's body and Steinkamp facing front while making the pulse with her heel as both the beat and her strong focus vibrate the room. The sound, including a poem "Noticed" spoken and written by Green's partner, clarified the inner turmoil that Green was analyzing in her choreography. 

As Conn entered and movement erupted, the shifting from McDonald as an object into an individual thinker and mover continued throughout until Cruz lifted her onto his back and brought her off stage. The rest of the cast was hanging off, skimming the floor. 

"I started off with a question which was 'how far was too far?' During my process of creating the piece the word 'boundaries' kept popping into my head," Green said. "I knew I wanted to create a piece that made the audience feel a little uncomfortable, but still kept them engaged enough to want to continue watching." 

The hypnotic and physically conversational duet "Freshly Squeezed Limes", choreographed by sophomore Claire Fisher and senior Konrad Morawski, played with the stage next. Resembling siblings, the duo played with connected hand movements, isolations, breaking into the floor and playing off each other's strongly delivered motions.

Their electronic music choice cleanly flowed with the directional quality of the duet. 

"We wanted something that had distinct beats, layers in the score because our movement quality is specific and linear within this specific piece," Fisher said.   "Our sound creates almost the staff for our dance while we as dancers are the notes on the staff." 

Improvisation and influences each run off this dance, as both makers are intrigued by how improving within  the performance shapes the viewer's experience as well as their own artistic agendas. 

"We stretch limits within each run of the work through timing cues, movement modifications, and overall feelings of each other and ourselves," Fisher explained. "Also, the uniqueness of how Konrad and I have transformed this work multiple times until this show. We have been working on this dance since last semester, and our ideas have been blossoming for most of that time to create the work within DANCE/Strasser." 

A solo work swept up the audience following this impulse-led duet. Student Kelsey George entranced the space with a solo, Give Away. Dressed in a flowing white costume, George opened her dance by walking towards the audience. As the lights blacked out, the audience blinked to find George on the floor. 

Similar to Morawski and Fisher's performance, this solo dancer allowed the autonomy of her piece to develop the experience of her audience.  

"I had a bit more freedom on stage than if choreographing on others," George said. "During my choreographic process I developed a framework for the piece ... and rehearsed that framework but not necessarily the piece as a whole. The dance seems to develop and surprise me in different ways every night, which actually makes the performance that much more exciting, yet ... a truly vulnerable experience." 

After George, another female solo took the stage in a contrasting sense of quirky explosion entitled "Circus for Two". Junior Meghan Mariotti popped out of the audience to scan the perimeter of the piece with a deadpan focus, risky movements and an exposed mirror of Strasser studio for playing on the ballet bars with jungle-gym curiosity.  The music "Baby Elephant" by Henry Mancini bubbly accentuated the performative character being colored within the space. 

"I wanted something that was upbeat and happy with a cartoon vibe since my dance was very abstract and my focus was blank slate," Mariotti explained. 

Mariotti's choice of only using the large square outline of Strasser's stage was powerful and refreshing. 

"Using the edges of the space in Strasser was something that I was always wanting to use," Mariotti said. "Also, the audience interaction intrigued me because I wanted to create something fun for people to watch."

Ending the show was student Jessica Moore's thesis We Are Amalgamnation. 13 women dressed in brightly colored, patched dresses slid through the space and rearranged into different groups. The dance, increased in intensity, as the dancers slowly accumulated onto the stage and swirled, slid and speared in attack mode. 

"Each time I watch the work I am amazed at how the space transforms to put me in a new world," Moore said. "The beginning two sections continue to evolve and transport the dancers into a different state of mind."

Moore's physical research drew upon her Native American heritage as choreographic inspiration. 

"The goal was to use Native American culture as reference and reflecting characteristics integral to the culture," Moore explained. "Each of my musical choices were strategically selected for their importance in Native American culture and their impact to the movement...the music is the heartbeat of the movement. It is one with the dance. Because of this fact, the movement was intentionally designed to highlight and compliment the music." 

DANCE/Strasser emphasized narrative, empowerment and improvisational curiosity. The concert was an exciting opening to the spring semester's line-up of dance performances, giving student choreographers and dancers confidence in their artistry and performance practice.


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