Towson State showcases new choreography

May 09, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

The first annual Choreographic Showcase: Works in Progress, a joint venture between the Towson State University Dance Department and Dance on the Edge, opened Friday night at TSU's Lida Lee Tall Hall with an ambitious program of twelve dances created and performed, for the most part, by local choreographers and dancers.

The idea of an open choreographic showcase is a terrific one Spotlighting the works of local choreographers and dancers in an informal setting can give young performers much-needed audience exposure; for veteran choreographers, it can provide an opportunity to fine-tune a work in progress. Another added benefit for the dances is a cross-fertilization of ideas.

Yet, this showcase, which was open to all area dancers, was weighted with Towson dancers, especially the Friday night program. On one hand, this lineup is to be expected, as the event was co-produced by the TSU dance department. Friday night's program contained only three works that were not somehow affiliated with the university. (In all fairness, Saturday night's program had less TSU emphasis.)

Each dance was followed by a brief discussion by the choreographer and a question-and-answer period from the audience. This was either painful or interesting, but most of all, it was time-consuming. For most choreographers, there is a need for feedback and reaction, and giving the audience a chance to comment can be valuable to the choreographer. But with a lengthy program, what was meant to be enlightening soon becomes trivial. It is interesting to note that the more coherent works had equally coherent comments.

Highlights of Friday evening's performances included Dennis Price's "Plangent," a sweeping group work for 14 dancers to the Allegretto from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Mr. Price expertly manipulates his dancers, grouping them symmetrically, contrasting their movements, yet closely adhering to the phrasings and swells of the music.

Ilona Kessell's "No Absolute Time" deftly took Jean Luc Ponty's jazz/calypso beat and spun out a dance that was musically and visually exciting. Ms. Kessell's seven dancers rolled their shoulders and bumped their hips and swung their arms as they played in unison or singly with the music's varying time signatures.

Guest TSU teacher Mary Williford Shade presented her psycho-drama "Trussed," a work that put Ms. Shade on the fine edge of madness. Choreographed by Ms. Shade and Mark Taylor, the work feels very much like a foreign films in which symbolism is everywhere. Ms. Shade is a strong, charismatic performer, and her control is simply amazing.

This first choreographic showcase seems to be just the tip of the iceberg of local choreographic talent. Ideally, in future showcases, more new talent will surface.

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