Monday, May 9, 2011

Philadanco At Its Finest

This past weekend my mom and I took a trip up to Philadelphia to see The Philadelphia Dance Company perform at The Kimmel Center for their Spring Concert Series. I hope these trips become a tradtion because I love seeing this company's work. We had a great time aside from the awful blisters I got from my new patent high heeled shoes that apparently need to be broken in. Although, it was probably pretty comical for anyone walking down the Avenue of the Arts that night who saw me trudging down the dirty, city streets barefoot.

This performance included four amazing pieces that were all so completely different and interesting. There was lyrical dancing, modern, intense contemporary, hip hop, and some good comedy thrown in. The first dance was called, "Violin Concerto" by Milton Myers. The first song in this piece was slow and peaceful, as was the dancing. I felt entranced by the gorgeous lines and extensions of all the dancers, especially the lead who wore a beautiful flowing dress that moved with her as she danced across the stage. The first half was very calm and almost innocent, whereas the second part of the dance picked up the pace and grew in strength. The movement in this piece was based entirely on the music selected and I could see the focus on the change of pitch, speed, and intensity in the violins.

Next was "Cottonwool", which had a little bit of everything. The music was very interesting because at some points it would just be odd, electronic sounds, and other times there were soft lyrics with a background beat. The music tended to be kind of random, and this added to the humor that was involved in the dance when at one point the dancers were yelling out and asking each other questions on stage. The piece was about going beyond our limits and exploring new horizons. The program says, "In life sometimes we go too far with the hopes of landing softly - like on cottonwool." The curtain goes up and the stage is illuminated by five slender spotlights that create individual squares on the ground. It had sort of an eerie effect because the beams of the spotlight were fogged by dust floating through the air. Then, a dancer occupied each spotlight and they were doing off balance movement on one leg as if the spotlight was a barrier and they weren't sure if they should break through it. Once the whole stage was lit and the dancers started to travel and expand, it seemed to represent unfamiliar territory that they were exploring. After all, if we don't take any chances, how will we find out about all of life's opportunities?

The next number was definitely my favorite of the whole show. It was based off of the 1967 film, "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner". The film was about a girl who brings her fiancĂ© home to meet her parents, but her family is white and his is black. The only connection I could tell between the movie and the dance was the obvious one, which was the prop: a very large table. I could also tell by the movement that there was some tension between the dancers and this shows the relationship between the two families in the movie. This dance was powerful, energetic, and strong. It had me on the edge of my seat, partly because I was scared someone was going to fall off the table. There were multiple moments when the whole audience gasped and broke out into applause because of some of the daring stunts the dancers performed. There was a moment where one of the women was balancing and turning on the table, then all of a sudden she goes soaring into the air in a straddle split and lands full force into one of the men's arms. Now, you have to picture this with a table that's at least four feet tall, so it was quite a jump! There were different sections with the whole group dancing together, a section with the men where the theme seemed to be strength and agression, a section with the women dancing seductively around the table, and a woman's solo. I liked the solo the best because the stage was dark and the table was illuminated with the dancer looking trapped underneath. It was very quirky and different and I could tell she was very paranoid about something.

The last dance was a great show closer since it was a fun hip hop number. I wasn't sure about it at first because it started off slow and the slideshow displayed on the back drop was a little distracting to me. But this dance was about the city of Philadelphia and the dancers mimicked the energy, rhythms, movements, and speed of city life. The style of dance was more like an African/hip hop blend, so it was a chance for the dancers to let loose and show their true personalities. There were moments throughout the piece where different people were featured and got to do their own thing, so it reminded me of a freestyle session in a way. After the dance was over and they took their bows, one of the dancers came back on stage and suddenly the beat picked up again. Before we knew it, all of the dancers were back on stage giving us an encore. I love the feeling when the energy and excitement of the performers and the audience come together to make an uplifting atmosphere filled with people on their feet cheering and clapping. This is something I will always enjoy experiencing as both an audience member and a dancer.

An image posted in the New York Times from Ray Mercer's, "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" performed by the dancers of Philadanco.

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