– PHOTO: The Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Photo by Cate Marquis for The Current –
By Karlyne Killebrew, Features Editor for The Current
University of Missouri-St. Louis’s resident modern dance company, MADCO, did things a little differently for their “Double Date” performance. They held the cabaret style show in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.
Despite the title’s implication, the show was not the standard remake of a love story or a fairy tale. The production flowed more like a brief showcase with varying sub-themes and moods. The performance lacked a central story line, but everything was cohesive. There were only five numbers, but they were engaging and only lasted about an hour and half.
With simple titles like “Groove” and “Points of Contact,” the artistic director gave a serious nod to the theme of relationships.
Dancer and company member Belicia Beck revealed her thoughts on it: “I think the theme of this entire show, even though it was [titled] ‘Double Date,’ the whole theme was more. Like the last piece was called ‘Point of Contact,’ it was more of partnering and the different relationships between people.”
The constant switches in choreography, lighting, and music from strong to gentle, light to dark, and staccato to flowing teased out those nuanced moments in the life of nearly every relationship.
“Groove,” the opening piece, was decidedly jazzy. The music was on the upbeat, more light-hearted, Roaring Twenties side of things. The choreography was performed with the stereotypical ease and laxity of jazz, like a cat ambling through the streets. The gentlemen’s dichromatic suits and ladies short, stiff upper-bodied dresses seemed to solidify the cultural reference to the past. However, because this was a group number, the performers’ roaring good time accentuated the togetherness and communally celebrated joy of existing during times of creativity and prosperity.
As if in response to the world’s own felicity, the second piece, “But Seriously,” was a more sobering duet. The music was a spoken word piece, and the dancers were dressed like a country farmer and wife. The dance featured a lot of mimetic movements. At times it appeared the dancers were acting rather than dancing, saying that reality is a matter of taking a closer look at the smaller things and realizing what kind of habits, actions, and people make up that big, jazzy world. The dancers’ miming represented love, abuse, craziness, and sometimes disgust. The ultimate resolution for the piece was that they stayed together, even though the lady was face down on the floor looking at us crazily while the male dancer stood over her.
The choreographers continue to answer the questions that their previous pieces posed. The subsequent piece,“Spur,” squeezed every major, commonplace action of human interaction into one dance piece. There was outrage, protest, war, and refuge. “Spur” was a dance of many pieces. First a trio of ladies in flesh-colored costumes moved with strong lines to the sound of a woman rapidly speaking what sounded like gibberish. The tempo continually increased to the climax that ended with pop. The viewers were suddenly taken to duet sexily dancing to a passionate instrumental that was eventually trampled by the sound of helicopters and the appearance of other company members doing sharp staccato movements. The number then turned the lens to the less domestic side of human interaction, looking at the causes that spur us on to take our individual and collective actions. For a moment it looked like the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties were finally having their cards pulled in the show. Each of these experiences were universal, making the diverse cast of MADCO all the more appropriate and intriguing.
The penultimate piece, “Accidentally on Purpose,” brought the big surprise: “Double Date” sang. Dressed in lovely evening wear, like what one would wear to church or the office, the singers performed a hymn about going on to Jordan, followed by some happier numbers. It was sharp of the creators to include something about the relationships humans share with their deities. This group dance brought the relationship theme full circle to include a double date with the maker.
It all trickled nicely into the final section, “Points of Contact,” which was a mash-up of the mystery and the brokenness that seem to be at the center of everything. The movements switched from the adept plucking of eastern string instruments into a trio of guys working out their identities in their own spotlights. The section coalesced into a darkly suited number that included what sounded like the instrumental version of The Fray’s “How to Save A Life.”
MADCO reached deep into the reservoir of creativity to do this piece on interdependence. Live music, multiple choreographers, allusions to the past and the present, and a little bit of borrowing from choreographer Kameron Saunders’ show in the upcoming “Spring To Dance” festival was combined with elements from the 2014 New Dance Horizons concert. The singing group was phenomenal. Perhaps, rather than “Double Date,” the title should have been “All for One.”
© The Current 2015