Dancers’ Viewpointe 11 Continues the Fine Tradition

April 19, 2011
Dancers’ Viewpointe 11: Point, View, Voice, was a bold presentation of contemporary dance and performance art. The annual show, presented by the Harvard Dance Center at the New College Theater, always manages to attract unique guest artists and take artistic risks, showcasing student and faculty talent while challenging the audience’s imagination. While the “Point” and “View” of some dances may have confused the average Harvard theatergoer, the choreographers and performers certainly projected their voices, making for an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

The over-the-top frenzy of the opening improvisational number, “Way Much,” was a loud and colorful way to engage the audience quickly. From the darkness of the theater, we heard a cry – “GO!” – and dancers haphazardly clambered over shocked viewers with flustered shouts of “excuse me!,” scurrying onto the stage after having hidden nonchalantly in the audience. “Way Much” began before the curtain came up: some of these dancers, fully dressed and made-up, mingled with entering show-goers, asking for private accounts of the first time they fell in love.  The touching recordings then became part of the upbeat music, and blended well with the hokey, “flock” group improvisation and prom-night outfits.

In ‘RE+,’ dancers interacted with one another to convey the mundane motions of quotidian life, as well as a strong sense of pointed hardship, in heavy paralleled movements. In the first scene, the partnering movement of Christian Rivera ’13 and Tabare A. Gowon ‘12 seemed to defy gravity. While everyday props and spoken words throughout the piece overwhelmed the audience, the performers’ confounding inner battles somehow called upon our own lives, with clear social and political messages (all prototypical marks of choreographer Keith Thompson, performer with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange). Any lack of technique on the part of the dancers was hardly distracting, and their performance quality and commitment to their actions resulted in a deeply moving experience for the audience.

As the curtain rose on ‘Two and One,’ we saw Kevin Shee ‘11 sporting yesterday’s jeans and Whitney Fitts ‘12 in a pinstriped summer dress.  The dichotomy between the fantasy and reality of love was evoked as the couple floated though each other’s arms.  The dancing was effortless, choreography seamless, and emotion palpable. Contributing to that emotion was the tactful marriage of classic and contemporary, which granted the motion a raw, human quality. Above all, the lifts, turns, and embraces elevated the piece’s effect from subliminal to sublime.

The second showing of “Solitary/Solidarity,” after its premiere in “Traces Of…” last December, was a marked improvement in execution (see the HAR review of “Traces Of…”). Among the standouts bringing the work to a new level were Natalie Cameron ’11, whose performance evinced both her technical progress and transformative growth as an artist, and Megan Murdock ’14, whose bounding leaps imbued the piece with an arresting intensity and energy.

Next was an “Elegy” for all innocence lost. The piece opened swathed in all white, with an aerial silk “cocoon,” lace dresses, and a large, white screen, displaying images of a washed beach and blanched memories. Lauren Simpson GSE ’11 seemed to play the part of protector, first seen showering a caring maternal eye on her “larva” Samantha Yu ’12, who performed with strength and fluidity. The work seemed somewhat disjointed, and the messages of mourning difficult to grasp. The mirror-like props were slightly comical, and the aerial work, while impressive, seemed to be inserted just for its own sake. Overall, we applaud the choreographer’s ambitious multi-media essay and performers’ talents, but wish the themes and props had been better integrated to serve a more insightful and cogent purpose.

“Gamble Away” could be described as cute, edgy, saucily flirtatious, and you-got-it-flaunt-it sexy. While it was somewhat unpolished, the overall effect was quite enjoyable. Additionally, the piece gave the audience a well-deserved break from the desperate search for some sort of message or ulterior meaning in every piece: “Gamble Away” allows one to appreciate dance as simply dance. While it could be conceived as commercial at times, the raw talent and impressive technique allowed us to sit back and admire the athleticism and simple beauty and fun of dance. Next to other pieces full of complex concepts and storylines, this piece was a pleasurable “palate cleanser.”

Our first thought in “sprangsprungspring” was Gap commercial–we were half waiting for the pink flamingos and synchronized swimming. But we’ll give it this: it was joyous, movement for the sake of moving. It also played off the tongue-and-cheek pun of our extravagant Cambridge winter and our heinous fever for spring. And it was a good way to end–Peter Pucci’s comic work closed this year’s Dancers’ Viewpointe the way it began, unpresumptuous and easy-going, its felicitous cheer leaving the audience in high spirits.

The Harvard Art Review Dance Board


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