VCU Dance Grads Present ‘Ergo Sum’ – An Eclectic Mix of Old and New
photos via Ian A.H. Hurdle
This week VCU Dance presents ERGO SUM, the Fall Senior Dance Project in Two Parts at the Grace Street Theater. The twelve emerging dance artists present their capstone projects as a graduate requirement in earning their BFA in Dance and Choreography at VCU Dance. Broken into two different programs, the seniors will showcase their choreographic skills in a series of performances.
Opening Program A is Catherine Faszewski’s Obscura, a dance influenced by the artwork of Michael D. Edens. Projections of Edens’ work serve as the backdrop for the piece as dancers move sophisticatedly along the stage. While their bodies, at times, mimic the paintings, the abstractness of both the artwork and movement is uniquely combined and well conceived.
Johnnie Mercer’s /house of adisa/ is a cleverly woven piece surrounding club culture. His mixture of house stepping and contemporary movements are well blended and energetically performed. Soloist Nikolai McKenzie is nothing short of a star here. From hysterical laughing to one of the greatest lip syncs I have ever witnessed in person, McKenzie perfectly embodies Mercer’s struggle for acceptance as a gay African-American man.
Michael Jarett, VCU Dance’s mastermind of lighting design, created a world of dark nightlife and full on disco for Mercer’s /house of adisa/. A single spotlight used during McKenzie’s lip sync was perfectly executed. Jarett’s lighting expertly exaggerated the highs and lows of Mercer’s search for personal identity.
Rachel Rinehardt’s pulling up the weeds! brings some comic relief to the show. Inspired by a Shel Silverstein illustration, eleven dancers use text, movement, and a quirky flowerpot headpiece to play with themes of conformity. While the large cast of dancers and numerous flower props could have been overwhelming to watch, Rinehardt’s careful crafting created a piece full of excitement and whimsy.
Rinehardt stated that the process of creating this work was “fun but arduous.” She went on to say “this semester consisted of a lot of running around, organization, and soul searching. But now I feel ready for anything!” I am sure the other seniors feel the same. After months of rehearsals, advising sessions, and the dreaded pass/fail decisions of final showings, these seniors are excited to finally share their creations with an audience.
Rounding out Program A is the theatrical and beautifully performed “attractive nor particularly otherwise” by Emily Todd; Christie Klach’s bare, a piece involving oversized coats and individuality; and a glimpse into the female psyche in Amanda Campbell’s Thing of Beauty.
Performing this Thursday and Saturday night will be the casts of ERGO SUM’s Program B.
Encounters, a trio by Molly Rae Pearl, transforms dancers into animals. Skillfully choreographed, the three dancers seamlessly yet primitively move around, under, and over a park bench. This display of animalistic behavior in a public setting is amusing and entertaining to watch.
Brooke Armstrong brings the spirit of New Orleans to the stage with the jazzy La Belle Facile, a piece bursting with sass and soul. The all-female cast, dressed in classic NOLA hues of purple, green, and yellow, shimmy to the music of Champion Jack Dupree and Jelly Roll Morton.
Additionally, Program B includes Fidalgo, an exploration of gender roles by Nikolai McKenzie; Julius Elegido’s ode to voguing in all t no shade; and Intolerable Isolation, a dramatic look into how violence between women arises.
Closing the show was the impressive Inevitable Veering by Amy Perkinson. This movement-for-movement’s-sake piece was so well crafted I almost forgot a student choreographed it. Lengthened limbs and quick footwork created a voluminous flow on stage. The dancers’ attack of the movement was also nicely contrasted by the sound of strings.
ERGO SUM confirms that VCU Dance produces incredibly talented dance artists. I believe senior Rachel Rinehardt sums up the experience best by saying “VCU Dance is an excellent training program. As soon as we come in as freshmen we are exploring our creativity as well as our technique. These two aspects are weighted equally throughout out the four years, so by our senior year, we are extremely prepared to present exciting work that is still true to us as artists.”
Program A will run Wednesday and Friday, November 20 & 22 at 8:00 pm; Program B will run Thursday and Saturday, November 21 & 23 at 8:00 pm; both at the Grace Street Theater, 934 West Grace Street. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students with a valid VCU I.D. They can be reserved beginning November 8th by calling the Grace Street Theater box office at (804) 828- 2020 or visiting Showclix.
Rebecca A. Ferrell, a native of Richmond, Virginia, is a dance educator, choreographer and performer. She is currently the artistic director of FDANCE, a project dedicated to her work as an intervention dance artist. Rebecca holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University as well as a MFA in Dance from Arizona State University. She is currently adjunct faculty at VCU Dance and is in charge of dance curriculum at John Tyler Community College. When she is not dancing, Rebecca is making cupcakes, breaking hearts, and obsessing over the color pink.
VCU Dance is heading into its 35th year and they’ve got quite a lineup for their 2015-2016 season.August 13, 2015
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