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REVIEW: University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theater and Dance’s Spring Dance Concert



Nicholas-Martin Kearney | Photography: Dana PhotoZen Nöllsh

Despite a dreary weekend of wet weather from April 28-30, the creative juices were overflowing, resulting in a flawless Spring Dance Concert by the UNR Dance Department faculty and students. The University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theater and Dance presented its Spring Dance Concert, featuring the work of special guest artists, Kathleen Hermesdorf & Albert Mathias and Kristin Heavey, at the Redfield Proscenium Theater in the Church Fine Arts Building.

This show explored themes of gender and identity; ephemeral beauty and the passing of time; women’s history and femininity; unity and chaos. Thirty-one student dancers and two Faculty dancers displayed a range of dance technique and body awareness.

Eight dances choreographed by seven women equally straddled a fifteen-minute intermission. It is a tremendous asset to the student dancers of the University Dance Department to have the experience of this eclectic mix of choreographers, each with her own artistic vision and command of her particular style. The collaboration between student and choreographer produced a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting dance concert.

The show opened with Faculty Choreographer, Katie Jean Dahlaw’s take on the male psyche as expressed by (mostly) female bodies. Space Taken, structured in three movements, began with seven women wearing white muscle t-shirts and gray jockey shorts enacting particularly suggestive movements (like hip thrusts) and masculine body poses (kissing one’s own bicep) while uttering phases like, “didn’t daddy teach you anything?” (abusively), and “hey there” (lecherously), and “semper fi” (militantly). The movements were simple: they walked, jumped, turned like everyday people. Their spoken word phrases were reminiscent of “Hey Big Spender” from Sweet Charity. The combination of pedestrian movements with powerful spoken word phrases quickly engaged the audience, speaking to the universality of misogyny. Richard Best performed the second section as a solo.

This diminutive young man commanded center stage and moved through space with primal energy. He hopped and slithered as if evoking the birth of masculinity and male dominance. Danced to “Ringing of the Bells” by Choeur de Pretres de Sofia & Kiril Popov and “We Bow Down Before Your Cross” by The Orthodox Singers Male Choir, Dahlaw’s movements powerfully showcased Mr. Best’s raw power and delicate grace.

Driven by the trance-like rhythm of “Invocation” by Moondog, the third and final movement blended all eight dancers to resolve the piece in a powerful climax of spent energy. The dancers traveled an onstage diagonal path of increasingly more difficult “boot camp” exercises: off-balance crawls, squat jumps in place, stag leaps through space. Seen running offstage, then backstage, slowly congregating in a marching line, the dancers’ repetitious pattern seemed to summon all to join in stolid celebration of their unquestionable manhood.

The Redfield Proscenium Theater is a 260-seat, proscenium-style theater space- cozy, intimate, and inviting. Due to the proscenium arch that frames the stage, a sense of formality and distance naturally occurs. The theater’s technical capabilities are top-notch. Michael Fernbach’s lighting and sound design enhanced the uniqueness of each dance beautifully.

The sound system provides crystal-clear playback. Lighting for dance is especially tricky as the goal is to provide light sources from many angles to capture the three-dimensionality of the human form. It is a pleasure to watch a dancer in all her physicality and Mr. Fernbach’s knowledge of this is spot-on.

Other dances in this concert included: The List, by Faculty Choreographer, Eve Allen; 28 More or Less and Ordinary Things by Faculty Choreographer, Rosie Trump; Intervertebral by Faculty Choreographer Cari K. Cunningham; Not As We seem, choreographed by Emeritus Faculty Choreographer, Kristen Avansino; Groundless by Guest Artist Choreographer, Kristin Heavey with Katie Jean Dahlaw; and Fern by Guest Artist Choreographer Kathleen Hermesdorf.

Upcoming shows presented by the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theatre & Dance include Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, and the Fall Dance Festival. For more information, visit www.unr.edu/cla/theatredance/ or call (775) 784-6829.

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