Go back to Flash Reviews
Flash Dispatch, 3-16:
A Modicum of Inspiration
At College Festival, Choreography by Assignment
By Diane Vivona
Copyright 2001 Diane Vivona
-- The American College Dance Festival Association's primary goal
as presented in its mission statement is "to support and affirm
the role of dance in higher education primarily through the sponsorship
of regional and national college/university dance festivals." What
this translates into in various regional ACDFA meetings is four
marathon days of classes and adjudicated concerts in which students
and teachers display their wares and receive evaluatory feedback.
Three adjudicators -- for the recent Southeast Regional festival
here, ballet star Fernando Bujones, choreographer-dancer Sean Curran,
and scholar-critic Brenda Dixon Gottschild -- have the difficult
job of viewing a continuous stream of work and critiquing the performers
and choreographers directly. After three days of viewing and commenting,
the adjudicators then select works to be presented on the final
concert. This is a great honor (as well as a bonus to your tenure
file if your school or work is selected). In other words, despite
its educational overtones, this is a highly competitive venue.
This year the adjudicators
selected nine works, announcing two solo works as honorable mentions.
In announcing those selected, Curran noted that in their deliberations
the identity of the choreographers as well as the work's school
affiliations were withheld. In this way, though the concert may
appear unusually lopsided in geographic representation, the adjudicators
cannot be held accountable. In relation to that, the University
of South Florida and University of Florida were represented by two
works each, while Columbia College (South Carolina), Henderson State
University, Huntingdon College, East Carolina University and the
University of South Carolina each presented one work. Sixteen colleges
whose work had been adjudicated were not represented.
The concert overall,
at the Constans Theatre of the University of Florida, was full of
high energy, large-cast collage works. I call them that because
they are often the result of jumbled rehearsal schedules and choreography
by demand rather than choreography by intention. Here's the requirement/directive:
a choreographer, whether student or faculty or guest artist, is
given a group of students (frequently not of his/her own choosing),
a rehearsal slot, and a time frame in which to create a work. And
the choreographer does, using all the compositional tools available
and relying on a lot of energy shifts and dynamic extremes to keep
the piece interesting. And it is, to a point. The problem lies in
the movement's not meaning anything beyond the energy expelled.
There is no metaphor, though some slower sections are performed
as if there were, and ultimately the work is as memorable as the
laugh track of a sitcom. A colleague of mine suggests that the work
reflects our busy lives, the impermanence and superficial nature
of speedy technology and throw-away products. I think it reflects
choreography by assignment rather than by inspiration. The absence
of an artistic vision of any kind I find particularly disturbing.
Three works of those selected tested the waters of intention; the
other six did not.
East Carolina University
student Courtney Paulos's "Copacetic Correlation" presents a clever
war between the audible and the visual in dance through Paulos's
cast of "tappers" and "moderns." Borrowing from the enthusiastic
rhythmic rumblings of such works as "Stomp!" and "Riverdance," this
work uses the tappers' sounds both onstage and off as another percussive
instrument in the piece's recorded sound score. The tension between
the two feuding camps is established at the outset and, though the
work never rises to the pitch level anticipated, it does capture
the competitive quality that can arise between dance styles. This
seems particularly appropriate from a student perspective, as many
students who have been tapping at their local studio for years are
challenged on many levels when entering dance departments with a
predominantly modern emphasis.
University of South Florida
student Maria Colaco's "For Her" is a lush solo that demonstrates
this performer's dramatic skills. The work opens in a series of
slow deliberate gestures, shifts to fast erratic spins rising from
and falling into the floor, and resolves in slow movements of disrobing.
I have no idea what the narrative direction of this work is; however,
I do believe that there was one, and that seems to be half the battle.
Colaco was brave enough to show that much.
Henderson State University
student Michael McGehee's "Remembrance -- A Vietnam Memorial" has
a loaded title and predictable content. The work is framed by a
curtain in the shape of Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington,
D.C. Dancers in black with names printed on their garments stand
behind the see-through curtain. This is a clear, if redundant, visual.
To open, there is a brief duet for a fatigue-clad soldier and his
innocent blonde girlfriend, just in case the former visual tableau
didn't ring any bells. I cannot say that there was anything but
the banal here -- sweet lifts for the couple, gunshot falls for
the black dead -- but I do commend McGehee for having the courage
to put forth this work despite all its resounding warnings and pitfalls.
Of the high energy collage
works, which were all performed with conviction and enthusiasm,
the work of University of Florida faculty member Kelly Cawthon stands
out. Her expertise is in "aerial modern" which, I suppose, is why
the dancers were continually throwing themselves at each other from
long distances. You see a lot of air between one piece of modern
technique and the next. This work aimed at incorporating technology
by having live video footage of the dancers from various angles
-- backstage, overhead, below, or following one dancer from another's
perspective. The video footage was an interesting experiment in
and of itself.
The concert was completed
by works from the following choreographers: Lynn Forney, student,
University of Florida; Elaine Heekin, guest artist, Huntingdon College;
Terrance Henderson, student, University of South Carolina; Jeanne
Travers, faculty, University of South Florida; and Christian VonHoward,
faculty, Columbia College, South Carolina.
back to Flash Reviews