Wolf Pack's Deserved Howl

Gina Mantica '16 Contributing Writer 

The MFA thesis dance concert took place in Theatre 14 on Feb. 5. Featuring Smith’s “Wolf Pack” – Joy Davis, Ellie Grace, Stephanie Maher and Annie Rudnik – the concert was a diverse celebration of a powerful group of female artists. Despite the numerous technical difficulties throughout the evening, the pieces that took the main stage, including Annie Rudnik’s “Oscillations,” Joy Davis’ “Protean” and Ellie Grace’s “Blue Ridge to the Bronx” had the opening-night audience standing on their feet, howling and clapping in much-deserved praise by the closing of the show.

Annie Rudnik’s “Oscillations” was a solo performance that included a comedic mixture of spoken word, film, music and dance to detail her journey of self-exploration as a choreographer. The minimalism in both the lighting and the costume design allowed the audience to become fully engaged in the transformative story of her life as a dancer and a choreographer. However, the music used for the opening of her piece seemed, at first, to prevent the audience from immediately engaging with its themes. As the audience was unsuspecting of the comedic nature of her piece, Rudnik’s 2007 cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” left them quietly shocked, until she began to make use of the facial expressions in her movements to lighten the audience’s mood.

Rudnik covered the space of the stage. The fluidity of her contemporary movements in the first section of her piece beautifully complemented the more staccato jazz-like movements in the second section. The second section is what stood out to me the most; this section included the brilliantly edited video “Slanted to the 6th,” made by Rudnik in 2003. According to Rudnik, “Slanted to the 6th” was a dance that she had always thought of choreographing with six dancers. So, she edited a video of herself doing five different parts, and as the video played in the background, Rudnik danced onstage as the sixth dancer. This flawless combination of media and live dance was refreshing and left the audience members wanting more.

Davis’ “Protean” was an intriguing, multifaceted dialogue on the notion of change expressed through dramatics and movement. Through the constant changing of costumes onstage conveyed the theme of frequent and easy alterations. The removal of clothing and the revealing of undergarments, followed occasionally by the dressing in completely different garb, were carried out on an almost distracting level. Because of this, it was difficult to garner attention away from the people changing to the movement happening in other places on the stage. For much of the performance, when there were multiple people onstage, they all seemed to be doing different things. While the style of the dancers’ movements flowed together like the ebb of a tide, the stark differences in the traveling of the movements through space was sometimes distracting.

There were some audience members who found beauty in the complexity of Davis’ performance. Thea Dennis ’15 explained, “Joy’s piece was my favorite. It was super engaging, and even if I didn’t understand it, I had fun watching.” Regardless of its busyness, the performance as a whole was memorable for its message and its movement, elegantly carried out by a group of extremely talented dancers. The dancers in Davis’ piece skillfully combated the challenge of adapting to a character and then seamlessly changing the traits and qualities of that character throughout the piece. The flawless facial expressions of each dancer drew audience members into their personal stories and kept them captivated and absorbed by the concept of the piece.

Ellie Grace’s “Blue Ridge to the Bronx” was, simply put, musical genius. Grace’s varying combinations of tap dance, hip-hop, beat boxing, rap, singing, step dance, clapping and violin were not only fascinating to listen to, but they were also inspirational. How is it that one person could think of such a plethora of juxtaposed musical combinations and unify the distinctive noises in a way that sounded so effortless to the ears? Although there were some issues with the microphones working properly, all of the performers carried on impeccably, and the sounds resonated throughout the theatre.

If there is ever another chance to see a member of the Wolf Pack’s work, go, because you will be in for a howling good time.