Saturday, 09 March 2019 16:10

Review: RAD Fest is full of powerful, innovative, accessible dance

Written by  Marin Heinritz
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The first of four performances of short works offered by the 10th anniversary Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival provided a little more than an hour of an eclectic variety of modern dance Friday night.

Curated by Rachel Miller, it was a quirky evening, largely accessible to both dance lovers and those less enthralled with the art form. From intense to funny to sweeping, seven dances — solos, duets, and more — drew from history, politics, music, and other cultural influences in mostly new works. Such is the way at RAD Fest, spanning from Wednesday, March 6 through Sunday, March 10, and hosted by Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers.

Six Wellspring dancers kicked off the performance with “RECIPROCUS,” a new sweeping work choreographed by Cori Terry. With two set pieces designed by Jon Reeves of framed and angled curtains as if in mirror image of each other, the dancers ran through them, center stage, with outstretched arms, and leaned into and leaned away from each other in little tableaus punctuating the eight-minute piece. They created angular shapes with their bodies in jeggings and tees designed by Patricia Plasko and showed their terrific musicality.

Gierre J Godley/PROJECT 44’s “Cheeky Bastards” also showed the wonderful musicality of dancers Jeremy Blair and Gierre J Godley in this silly, balletic, and sometimes acrobatic piece that provided much-needed levity amid the program heavy with intensity. Wearing turquoise sunglasses, white turtlenecks and sneakers with black pants, their excellent technique wasn’t tarnished by their delightful sass and leaping about to upbeat classics from Rosemary Clooney and Bobby Darrin.

Angela Dennis’s “Queen of Bones” was also notably amusing as she rolled about in 19th Century frilly knickers and a pink period wig using a chair to frame her face then carry around her neck in this cartoonishly animated dance in three parts.

The remaining four dances provided a depth of intensity — in movement, meaning and music. Soloist Nekeshia Wall began upstage left in a bright red bobbed wig and an oversized white sheath in “O,” and walked diagonally back and forth with some half-hearted stag leaps and grand jêtés thrown in against a colorful projected image, ending with chest and shoulder pumping African dance.

In “Touch Code” by Jennifer Glaws, Emma Marlar, Brenna Mosser, and Sharon Picasso rolled, slithered, and glided on the floor with periods of pause to lie on their backs and bellies and brief moments of standing on their shoulders, hands and feet. Accompaniment by sounds of chimes and ocean waves brought those images to mind.

“Two” choreographed by Katherine G. Moore with dancers Claire Melbourne and Brianna Johnson offered some of the most compelling dance. Full of tension, push-pull, holding, leaning, and lifts, with extraordinary rhythm and timing to music by Michael Wall that sounded like electronic blips, Melbourne and Johnson often mirrored image of each other until they stopped one another’s movements, as if in a beautiful fight.

And finally, Alexandra Stilianos’s “Existing” closed the show after a walk across the hall to the Judy K. Jolliffe theatre for a provocative interactive multi-media performance. Assaulted by a mash-up of familiar images of women’s marches, women speaking out about sexual harassment and assault by men in power, particularly our president, and words such as “money” “fatigue” “people” “politics” the audience couldn’t help but experience an inability to be present to the very real, very alive body moving — dancing, rolling, slapping herself— amid the dissonance of the projected media barrage. It’s a powerful statement about women’s bodies, trauma, and textual oversaturation with a visceral experience of forcible disembodiment.

With performances, master classes, and film screenings throughout the weekend, this opening performance of short works is but a taste of the interesting dance possibilities provided in Kalamazoo by this year’s expansive RAD Fest.

RAD Fest
Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers
March 6-10

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