Five College Faculty Dance Concert: Diversity in Dance

Gina Mantica '16

Contributing Writer

The Five College Dance Department Faculty Concert in Theatre 14 on Feb. 19 was a sundry collection of six distinct pieces, each with its own characteristic style and theme. Due to the unique nature of each piece, it is difficult to comment on the concert as a whole. However, this eccentricity reflects the diversification of dance that has been occurring on a nationwide, even global, scale. The FCDD Faculty Concert excellently captures this development and was a beautiful dedication to the department’s long-time Production Manager, Jean Baxter.

Tom Vacanti of UMass Amherst choreographed the first piece of the concert, “Arena.” The use of dark and light spaces on the stage stood out the most in this graceful piece. The simple spotlight in the middle of the stage allowed the three dancers to momentarily be hidden from the light, as is typical in a ballet. There were points during the piece in which two dancers were partly in the spotlight, while one dancer was off to the side, moving through the darkness. This intriguing use of space, combined with the circular, internalized gestures of the dancers made this pretty piece take on meaning that might otherwise have been lost in the poise of their quick, technical ballet movements.

Deborah Gaffe of Hampshire College choreographed “Reaction Bubble,” which also alluded to the notion of spheres. Gaffe’s piece, according to her excerpt in the program, focused on the idea that there are many concentric circles of human interactions, in all aspects of human life. The notion of human interactions was emphasized heavily, creating a piece that seemingly possessed more walking, running and noise-making than dancing or movement.  The choreography included a substantial amount of pedestrian movement in a circle en masse. The dancers ate up the space and filled the stage in a way that was pleasing to the eye. The movements and gestures of the choreography made the dancers appear as a quick-moving fascist army, preventing others from escaping the group or pushing them away.

The breathtaking piece “Full and Empty” was originally choreographed by Omar Carrum of Delfos Danza Contemporánea and was recreated with the help of Claudia Lavista, one of Delfos’ founders, and rehearsed by Angie Hauser of Smith College. The use of space in this piece, with regards to the space between bodies and between tactile components of the movement, seemed foundational to the work. There was an incredible amount of contact in the partnering and group work that brilliantly reflected the spoken-word components of the music, highlighting the idea that a body, and perhaps a soul, can be both full and empty at the same time.  The tactile nature of the choreography was fantastically executed by a group of talented dancers. Their artistry enhanced the audience’s reaction to the piece.

Leslie Frye Maietta’s excerpt from UMass Amherst’s production of “BODY|HOUSE” felt like an excerpt: the piece had difficulty capturing the audience and did not fully convey the meaning intended by the choreographer. The strong movements were appealing to the eye, and the dancer’s execution of these movements was impeccable. However, the structure of the piece as a whole did not invoke any sort of reaction; I felt nothing after watching it unfold. The minimalism in the set and lighting designs for the piece were fascinating and starkly contrasted the other pieces in the concert. In addition, the use of silence at the start and end of the piece was a welcome change from the combinations of instrumental music and spoken word that many of the other pieces in the concert utilized.

Bill T. Jones’s excerpt from “Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction)” had poignancy standing as an individual piece and was able to fully captivate the audience. This duet between Paul Matteson and Jennifer Nugent received the most applause and praise from audience members – and for good reason. The duet depicted the two dancers as near equals, dancing throughout the entire spatial capacity of the stage. The most shocking aspect of the piece left the audience breathless when Nugent displayed both her strength and her grace by carefully performing a lift with Matteson over her head. It is not common for a woman to lift a man in that way, and the boundary-breaking moment alluded to the aforementioned notion of the man and woman as equals.

The concert concluded with Kinsun Chan’s “seep sleep,” choreographed for Mount Holyoke dancers and rehearsed by faculty member Rose and Charles Flachs. The dancers appeared to move as a fluid unit, connected by their hands, engulfing the space of the stage. The most striking moment in Chan’s piece was when the dancers came together in silence at center stage to form a steep diagonal line, highlighted by a rectangular spotlight, rolling up and down slowly in a cannon. The position of the dancers onstage and their sequential movements evoked the image of a wave.