With the end of the spring semester quickly approaching, one of the most exhilarating and diverse events to arrive at the Anne R. Belk Theater at Robinson Hall reemerged this weekend with the annual Spring Dance Concert. Always touting a versatile collection of faculty and student choreographed performances and input from a variety of guest artists, the event never fails to captivate. With this year’s show offering a dynamic collaboration between dance and architecture as set design became an integral piece of one of the evening’s most intriguing works, there was an emphasis on what dance is and what it can look like from various perspectives. Encouraging the audience to engage with the performers beyond simply spectating from their seats, the Spring Dance Concert kicked off with a mix of classical performances and modern interpretations on how the art of dance can be experienced.
The palette of the evening began on the lighter side as a piece from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” introduced the show. With the choreography of Marius Petipa restaged by UNC Charlotte Associate Professor Delia Neil, the performance centered around the duo of Rose Wuertz and Alex Barnes as they captured the flowing movements of the classic ballet. The two began entwined in one another’s arms. The later sections of the ballet featured a solo from both of the performers, showcasing the respective talents of the dancers together and on their own. With Wuertz twirling effortlessly to the gentle notes of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” the ballet piece was just the appetizer in a night of breathtaking performances.
While themes of ballet and other entities of classical dance are commonplace at the Belk Theater, the Spring Dance Concert always strives to bring contemporary and interpretive pieces to the forefront of the annual show. Often minimalistic, the dancers creating the set with their intricate movements, these works at times hold references to some tidbit of modern society. As we live in a time of unrest, discrimination and inequality, these pieces offer portraits of the human body and spirit. The second performance of the night could’ve very well offered a similar portrait. As Professor Neil’s “Clockworks” found a band of young women sprawling the stage in a cacophony of vibrantly colored outfits, their stilted movements resembled the hands of a clock. While the dance was simple enough, the music by Steve Reich intriguing but uncomplicated, the choreography sought to showcase the passing of time and ultimately the consequences of living in a society where everything can so easily pass you by. While “Clockworks” might have been too minimal and brief to display any kind of far-reached critique on our modern times, it proved to be another fascinating entry to the night’s overall experience.
The stand-out performance I always find to be the most compelling and evocative each year at the Spring Dance Concert has to be the African dances. Accompanied routinely by a live band of talented percussionists, the performances are often filled with an inescapable energy and led by an army of performers eager to entertain. This year was no different as the dance of the Koredjuga overtook the stage. A radiant pink sunset provided the backdrop of a tale of disruptive minstrels and clowns. The costumed dancers leaped across the stage, flanked by the beat of the West African musicians. The ensemble set against the stark sunset at the back ultimately became the stars of the performance as they challenged the audience to mimic the steady beat of their drums.
A brief intermission to the show gave way to the fourth performance of the evening where the audience was encouraged to exit their seats into the lobby and the introduction to a classical Indian dance emerged. With the performance entitled “Sensate Technicities: Exploring the Sensory and the Affective,” it offered a cohabitation between dance and architecture as collaborating faculty members Eric Sauda and Kaustavi Sarkar utilized elements of light and sound to balance the intricate technique of Indian dance. The emphasis on the expressive aesthetics of architecture and the calculated movements of the dancers allowed the performance to become just as much about the technology around the performers as the dancers themselves. As the introduction in the lobby showcased how a dancer’s precision can be captured by sound and light, the role of light and other set design elements were amplified when you entered the theater once more. The overall sensory experience of the performance proved to be one of unique merit as the talented individuals involved alongside Sauda and Sarkar worked tirelessly to craft a sensational focal point for the night.
The remainder of the evening brought even more diversity in dance and music as faculty members E.E. Balcos and Janet Schroeder revealed pieces that focused on how the individual talents of the dancers influences the overall performance. Themes of rich Western culture and body percussion were highlighted in the final works of the night. As “All Tied Up” created a passionate tapestry of love and loss at the height of the Impressionistic period of Western music, the dancers donned 19th century apparel and floated through the emotional throes of Maurice Ravel’s “String Quartet.” With Schroeder’s “7(each her own) = !,” the nuances of contemporary tap dance closed out the show. As the dancers strutted the stage, contributing to the constantly evolving collective rhythm of the piece, the Spring Dance Concert concluded with rapturous applause as the annual event hosted another round of phenomenal talents.
The Spring Dance Concert ran from April 4 through April 7. It was presented by the UNC Charlotte Department of Dance and the College of Arts and Architecture.