Troupe to stage e-'motion'-al concert

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Movement can suggest emotion.

Languorous foot-dragging signals exhaustion. Frenetic leaps sometimes represent glee, other times fear or chaos.


Special to the Journal-World

Members of the University Dance Company perform Patrick Suzeau's "Kinetic Calligraphy." The dancer are, in air, Matt Abbick, and from left on floor, Jessica Turner, Alison Mize, Jun Kuribayashi, Brandi Green and Beau Hancock. Suzeau has choreographed an update of "The Dying Swan" and a piece called "Two to Tango" for the company's spring concert.

The University Dance Company at Kansas University will use motion to express a range of sentiments at its spring concert.

The show, which will be staged Thursday and Friday at the Lied Center, will feature two works by guest choreographer Bill Evans and an encore performance of modern dance legend Jose Limón's "Choreographic Offering." The lineup also will include pieces by KU faculty choreographers.

Evans visited KU in early February as an artist-in-residence. He taught the troupe two dances, "Remembering" and "Yes, Indeed!" The first tries to capture the profound sadness he felt in the days after 9-11 and is set above an excerpt from Johann Sebastian Bach's "St. Matthew Passion."

"I wanted to do a piece that shares a little bit of that sense of loss, anger, foreboding and appreciation of exquisite beauty and friends," Evans said during his February visit.

The second number grew out of an experience when he and a friend were so tired they couldn't pull themselves out of their chairs. It's a sprightly tap number that has the dancers rapping their own musical accompaniment.

Evans is a dance professor at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque and has choreographed nearly 200 works for professional companies throughout the world, including his own Bill Evans Dance Company.

The troupe also will mount a repeat performance of Limón's "Choreographic Offering," which audiences first saw during the company's fall concerts. The dancers learned the piece from guest choreographer Sarah Stackhouse, who was a principal dancer with the Jose Limón Company for 11 years and conducted a KU residency last semester.

Above Bach's "Musical Offering," 22 dancers crisscross the stage, moving through varied rhythms and breath-motivated phrases of suspensions, falls and rises. KU dance professor Joan Stone said the company wanted to take advantage of its two semesters worth of rights to perform the copyrighted work and a successful first performance last fall.

"We didn't know how it would come off: 22 dancers is really tough," she said. "But they did it. On stage, it just was so powerful."

Also on the first half of the program is Willie Lenoir's "Ceremony of Progression," an experiment in musical and choreographic contrasts. The first section conveys a flowing, unbound quality; the second section is more earthly. Patrick Suzeau's "Two to Tango," a collaboration with acrobatic dancers Matt Abbick and Jun Kuribayashi, follows above a wild fugata by Astor Piazzolla.

What: University Dance Company spring concertWhen: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and FridayWhere: Lied CenterTickets: $7 for the public, $5 for students. Tickets are available at the Lied Center, 864-ARTS; Murphy Hall, 864-3982; and SUA, 864-SHOW.

Evans' "Remembering" comes next, and the first half of the program ends with Jerel Hilding's ballet, "Maelstrom," choreographed to Serge Prokofiev's first piano concerto.

Works by Stone open the second half of the program, pushing the audience back in time to about 1600. Dancers will perform two pieces from a suite of Italian Renaissance dances that Stone reconstructed. Then, on a more experimental note, dancers will perform two contemporary versions of Renaissance dances -- one with Korean gestures, the other with a hip-hop slant -- as a couple in period costume enacts the traditional dances in the background.

"It was an experiment," Stone said, "but it really turned out very well."

Suzeau's update of Michael Fokine's famous 1907 solo "The Dying Swan" comes next. The brief work features ballerina Deanna Doyle in a response to recent oil spills that have devastated the coast of Suzeau's native France and other countries. Muriel Cohan's "Accents," which was recently chosen to be performed at the American Dance Festival, will round out the faculty contributions to the show, which will end with Evans' "Yes, Indeed!" and the Limon piece.