By David F. Pendrys
FAIRFIELD, CT – The Sacred Heart University Dance Company presented their Spring show entitled fall/Rise Friday and Saturday. The various members of the large and still relatively recent group performed splendidly. The two shows primarily involved the same dance numbers but a few were only on one day. This report recounts the Friday show. The problem with recounting a dance performance in writing is it is much better to see in person. There is only so much words can convey.
The dancers were as expected well skilled. Many of the numbers involved elegant or high kicks as well as various clean split leaps of different variations and any number of jumps and pirouettes. The various dancers however were able to use these tools and of course dozens of other maneuvers to meet the themes of each segment well.
The performance opened with Swing Forward set to “S.L.E.D.G.E” by Croatia Squad (an electronic remix of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”) A small group of dance dancers arrived on stage and engaged in a lengthy tap dancing number involving a variety of position changes and swapping people on and off stage. Most if not all of the dancers also had solo portions in addition to a mostly in unison performance. For those who don’t follow tap dancing, you might think it is a relatively simple endeavor but the things the dancers can do is extensive and complicated and this was on display. Keith Leonhardt was the choreographer.
Next up came a ballet portion, Kitri Variation and Paquita Variation with traditional music from Ludwig Minkus. The choreography was originally by the great Marius Petipa and re-staged by Sindy Folgar. Dancers glad in various red and black ensembles performed various elements including pointe work, leaps, and pirouettes. In the second half some turning leaps and larger skills appeared. It was an elegant and flighty change from the tap opener.
Up next was Lil Darlin’ with music by ZZ Ward and choreographed by Kari Williams. This was the first modern piece of the evening as the dancers clad in plaid shirts, and black emerged set to a jazzy number. A large group let loose pirouettes and kicks and powerful hair spins in a piece largely done in unison. Many dancers were also given solo portions.
Fourth was River with music by Bishop Briggs and choreographed by Jess Berard. Six dancers in black jackets and knee boots dance effectively matching their quick moves to a back beat from a contemporary song. Their hair was in ponytails which they swung fiercely. While much of the dance was together, many were given opportunities for individual spotlights. One dancer did a split at the front of a dance line. Another went up into a hand stand.
Up fifth was Jealous featuring music from William Singe. The choreographers and lone performers were Alexa Tricario and Rosie Cormier. The pair engaged in a duet which I would classify as contemporary/hip hop in nature.
Eclipsed was sixth. A large cadre of dancers are lying on each other in a circle on the stage. The modern dance piece, choreographed by Gierre J Godley with music by Johann Johannsson. The dancers all in modern clothes rise, though soon they are operating as either two groups, some rising, some still on the ground, or even smaller groups engaging in all sorts of dance maneuvers including kicks, numerous spins, and the like. The dance is very complex with the amount of dancers on stage, and it is not united effort as many have different roles using slow flowing movements.
We Insist was seventh in the lineup choreographed by Sindy Folgar with music by Zoe Keating. The dancers are clad in black in a mostly unified performance often on tip toe and involving side scales. The music changes midway through and the lighting is also variable to fit different portions. With the music change the dancers start emulating a clock with their various hand and leg motions. The performers are fluid except when the stilted clock movements are required. A soloist close to the end has an entire sequence of scale variations before the lighting and music build towards a conclusion.
Eighth was vor i vaglaskogi which Kari Williams choreographed. The dancers are in white and block tops and complexly patterned pants. Slow movements are accompanied by a slow guitar background. The dance breaks up into small groups an also features solos of various types. A few of the dancers bend over the others as well. Others later do handstands against others. Elegant sleek spins and scales come later on as does a cartwheel and there are even some lifts from a pair of dancers.
Duet X features dancers from the Matthew Westerby Company, namely Matthew Westerby himself and Dylan Baker, in a lengthy piece choreographed by Westerby with music by Bryan Senti. The pair in sleeveless dress shirts and pants begin with no music behind them. They are highly skilled in their movements. Eventually scratches and horns kick in chaotically as they continue to move either with each other or against each other. They throw some serious back leg kicks as well as other elements. This piece clearly suggests the pair’s characters are not having a good time, but the dances execute it well.
Wounded Hearts Become Whole choreographed by Eric John Campros featured the dancers in big shirts over their shorts. They sway in unison as piano plays. Various movements follow as this is a piece also relying heavily on turns and kicks to great effects. The music changes and a voice says “Stop Looking at Me.” several times. The dance continues with more elements being thrown. The voice will return later on in the piece as well. Some of the more difficult skills looked like they were saved for late as they were unleashed then. It was a fitting closure to Act One. (Editor’s note: Some notes written in the dark of the theater were illegible.)
Act Two began with a unique performance named The Unforgiven. Leo Carusone played the piano live on stage with his slow composition of the Metallica song “The Unforgiven.” Choreography was by Kari Williams and Briana DiLeo was the lone dancer. Also on stage was Christopher Williams who was painting DiLeo as she danced on a canvas he revealed to the crowd at the end. DiLeo, clad in a red leotard was the only dancer in the entire show to have the stage to herself in this manner. Her character seemed to be ailing at first, but used the stage well either moving vertically or horizontally in an elegant fluid performance. She scaled, she turned balanced on one leg, she did so much in a truly impressive performance. (SHU posted a brief sample of it on their Instagram.)
The twelfth segment was a video celebrating the seniors and discussing that they were the first senior class there since the dance company’s inception. It featured interviews as well as brief films of the dances in action. It was directed by Alicia Knittel and set to “Bound Movement I” composed by Natalie Dietterich. The senior class consists of Jenna Diblanda, Abbie Perez, Alexandra Hogan, Alysa O’Donovan, Brittany Eger, Elizabeth Florentine, Kayla Plitnick, Kelly Brigley, Maggie Enright, Megan Marcucci, Olivia Druckrey, and Victoria Romano.
Thirteenth in another Friday only performance was a a piece known as Wiseman choreographed by student Marissa Powers. The music came from Frank Ocean’s Wise Man. The 4 dancers clad in back sometimes work in unison but often appear to be fighting with each other at times. Later they do turning jumps in unison and continue to leap an turn as the piece goes on. (Note: Some of the notes for this great piece were illegible as well.)
Up next came I Will Be choreographed by Kari Williams with music by Florence & The Machine. This is a slow piece with the dancers wearing flowing dresses. It is elegant but their movements are accentuated by the dresses that flow with their pirouettes and turning leaps. At times some pirouetted right into a jump as well. Elements that appeared in other dances take on a different form as the cloth produces a different effect. Just a beautiful impressive display.
After the Fall was set to two contemporary pieces by Lapsley: “Falling Short” and “Brownlow”. The piece was choreographed by Dina Verley Christophe and involves a group of casually clad performers. Leaps, jumps, and turns are common as are dramatic arm movements and it is well done.
Never Let Me Go, also only performed on Friday, was choreographed by Quinn Lesperance set to “MTV unplugged” by Florence and the Machine. The dance was performed by Lesperance and Taylor Gilberti. The two are clad in dresses which have an aquamarine color trailing down in to white. They often move in unison but then do not in the duet. There is a clear aquatic theme to the piece and it is not surprising it involves fluid motion. There are a lot of leaps and turns and I noted they were big in execution. Pirouettes are not in short supply augmented by the dresses as well. The result was excellent.
It’s About To Go Down! Is well titled for the Kim Elliott choreographed dance. Music included “Chingaling” and “Where They From” by Missy Elliott, “I Get Crazy” by Nicki Minaj, “Get Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, and “Matimba Afro-Panico” by Deejay Mingota.
The dancers were from the Hip Hop Production Class and they engaged in a long but energetic and exciting Hip Hop number which culminated in a straight up dance battle with great skill.
Sunday Candy was another piece only performed on Friday choreographed by student Sidney Choothesa. The music was “Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment.” Four dancers in denim jackets made it happen, as it begins with one dancer moving as the others watch and gradually the others state to move. The movement was notable. (Note: some notes on this piece were illegible.)
Next came Gravitation choreographed by Matthew Westerby with music by Wim Mertens. The final two pieces of the night were true showcases of the skills of the company. The final two really take what we saw throughout the night and pushed it to a higher level as a group. This piece has a lot going on in it, as the dances, as there are just a ton of leaps and turns. It is a busy complex performance carried out adroitly by those on stage.
Finally comes Higher Ground choreographed by Westerby with music by Philip Glass. The dancers glad in white shorts and tops let loose in a torrent of dance. It is bombastic. The notes are extensive but essentially the dancers do so many jumps, and leaps, and spins. Other pieces had a lot but this one blew them out of the water in terms of the sheer amount of aerial skills being thrown. This piece joined with the previous one was basically icing on the cake the size of a cake itself. Truly spectacular.