Dancer’s Viewpointe 10: A Stunning Showcase

April 12, 2010

As a show of the same title put on annually (albeit with a new number), one might expect the Harvard Dance Program’s yearly spring production at New College Theater to be repetitive and uninspiring. Dancer’s Viewpointe 10, however, featuring excerpts from celebrated works by Alvin Ailey, as well as recent works and premieres by Jodi Leigh Allen, Trey McIntyre, and Dance Program Director Elizabeth Weil Bergmann, comprised an eclectic and exciting evening that beautifully showcased early modern dance as well as contemporary dance.

The show, which ran for two weekends (March 26-27 and April 2-3), opened with a restaging of Allen’s breathe from 2003. Innovatively incorporating a metal bar structure, off of which the dancers would jump and hang, breathe literally took place on multiple levels and called upon the acrobatic ability of the dancers. The dancers were unfazed shifting between swinging from the bar and dancing on the stage in perfect unison. The piece was athletic, daring and empowering, making it well suited to Karl Jenkin’s music. It demonstrated how women can simultaneously be strong, beautiful, and sexual creatures. One minor pitfall: the absence of wings on the stage was an unavoidable consequence of the rigged metal bars, and the visible stagehands raising and lowering it were at times distracting from the choreography.

The ever dynamic pairing of Merritt Moore ’10-11 and Kevin Shee ’10-11 in the premiere of Trey McIntyre’s This Awareness Drives Me Forward did not fail to impress. Both Moore and Shee performed with enthusiasm and ease in McIntyre’s intricate pas-de-deux. Refreshingly playful and engaged, the two dancers’ facial expressions and body language made it easy to forget the piece’s level of difficulty. Furthermore, they exhibited a sense of trust that can only be established over years of dancing together.

Bergmann’s “They Say We Travel the Same Road,” first performed in 2000, did not disappoint, although it suffered slightly by following Moore and Shee in the program, since the level of difficulty did not match McIntyre’s piece. Still, changing tempos kept the piece exciting, and the ensemble established a palpable sense of camaraderie on stage. The costuming was tasteful, with every dancer in the same style dress of a different color, bringing the dancers together as a group while also projecting each dancer’s individuality.

The second act, entitled Celebrate Ailey: Selected Excerpts, featured eclectic selections from Alvin Ailey’s repertoire, stringing together fragments of his iconic choreography from the middle of the 20th century into one continuous work that showcased both the Harvard dancers’ versatility and as well as Ailey’s choreographic range. The act opened with the playful Mean Ol’Fresco, a lighthearted blues piece for five male dancers; four Harvard students were joined by Tyrone C. Walker, a dancer with Ailey II (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s apprentice company). This excerpt was refreshing because it specifically showcased the talents of some of Harvard’s most capable male dancers in a piece that exuded playful amity.

Another highlight among the excerpts was The Lark Ascending, a solo performed by Coral Martin ’10 during the second weekend of the show’s run (Sarah Christian ’11 danced it the first weekend). Martin’s grace was simply stunning. She exuded comfort and tranquility onstage, performing with a charm that is rare to see even among professional dancers. Martin seemed to truly float, matching her passion for her craft to her artistic and technical ability.

Also noteworthy was Isba, an exciting deviation from the blues pieces earlier in the act. With dazzling costumes and an interesting pattern that featured an artistic projection on the scrim, Isba was an enthralling piece. Ricky Kuperman ’11 and Ashley Chung HLS ’12 executed the work with careful attention to the detailed choreography.*  (Amanda Lynch ’10 and Kevin Shee ’10-’11 performed the piece the first weekend).

In just under two hours, this year’s Viewpointe managed to not only to continue the tradition of celebrating the talent of Harvard’s dancers, but also to highlight some of the most exciting and culturally rich choreography of the 20th century while maintaining a forward-looking approach to dance. In short: bravo.

– The Harvard Art Review Dance Board

*Correction: Isba was called “an homage to African tribal dance” when this article was originally published, but we have been informed that this was a misinterpretation and it was cut from the article (4/23/2010 7:35pm)

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