Chronically lagging patrons of the arts might have felt a rush of dread walking into Lane Community College’s performance hall this past weekend, on March 7-9. Two pairs of bodies, languidly being molded by their mate on a dimly lit stage, caused some — but totally not me — to think they were indeed late, again.
LCC’s dance program kicked off Collaborations, a variety showcase featuring the work of students, faculty, alumni, guest artists and local dance companies with an improvisational piece, “Body Listening for Four,” by Linda Bair.
Despite the initial sinking of hearts into stomachs, the prelude actually felt more like a gallery exhibition, where onlookers quietly offer thoughtful interpretations over rounded shoulders.
“They look like Play-Doh,” whispered one young art lover.
No one can contradict such an astute observation.
The signature angsty whimpers of Thom Yorke and a bright red sweatshirt set the tone for the next piece. “One and the Same,” performed by independent dance artists Mariah Melson, Agnese Cebere, Kerry Laube and Kat Sullivan, with choreographer, Denae Brocksmith, is a shadow game of keep-away, as each dancer takes her turn with the red sweatshirt — leaping, running, swirling and swaying in an effort to stand out from a blank existence, perhaps a commentary on female competition.
Eugene’s Zapp Dance Company sparks the energy in the room with a fun hip-hop routine to popular Drake and YG hits. Choreographed by Ari Zreliak-Hoban and performed by a sea of braids, white high-tops and black track suits, “The Plan” is a frenzy of stomping feet, swinging arms and bouncing bodies.
The performance takes a break from live dance about midway through the show to present “Dive,” a short film by alumni Charlie Stellar and Haley Wilson. The hypnotic duet between the ocean and the human body is a fluid departure from your average gray day at the Oregon Coast.
Dressed in an enviable deep-azure gown, Wilson looks more like a royal sea crustacean than a mere human being. The film, which has been showcased at festivals in and around the Bay Area, is a stunning display of creativity that soothes and invigorates the senses — a beautiful testament to the expression of dance.
Perhaps the liveliest, and my personal favorite, performance of the night came from the Eugene Youth Ballet. Set to the soundtrack of my hippie youth, Galactic, and choreographed by Sarah Ebert, “Hit the Wall” is a nonstop merry-go-round of movement. Plaid pants and bounding ponytails show off their athleticism and unique jazzy style in near-perfect unison, until everyone drops to the floor in a non-conformist fit of kicks, ground slaps and rolls.
“That was super fun,” whispered the aforementioned young art lover.
LCC really showed off its chops with an interesting piece by faculty lead Bonnie Simoa. “Crumbs” is a highly expressionistic three-part dance that comments on a number of themes, including family dynamics and dysfunction sprinkled with mental illness. “Crumbs” is tense, fluid and intoxicating, with perpetual shadows and warm lighting contribute to the overall anxious vibe.
Absent any tension is the lovely duet between Omar Ramirez and Anabel Tucker, “Chrism,” directed and choreographed again by Simoa. A train whistle of cathedral voices carries the lovers in and out of one intensely intimate moment after the next.
Last is “The Room Upstairs,” a stunning three-part reflection on the works of Portland poet Hazel Hall. With original music by LCC’s Matt Svoboda and choreographed by Sarah M. Nemecek and DanceAbility’s Jana Meszaros, Hall’s literary works are transformed on stage into a silent exhibition of life lived in quiet solitude.
Karen Daly is wonderful as Hall, who worked as a seamstress in an upstairs room of her family house in Portland and was confined to a wheelchair at an early age. Daly defies the confines by wheeling and spinning around on stage. Simple black and white is used to convey the nearly lost history of Hall’s words, and hands are of particular interest throughout the piece.
In short, Collaborations was a big hit. Hopefully, LCC continues its unique blending within the dance community in the coming years.
You can catch “The Room Upstairs” again 7 pm Thursday, March 14, in LCC’s Ragozzino Hall, or go to lanecc.edu/perarts/dance for other performances.