Arts Collective Dance Company Concert at Arts Collective @ HCC

HCC puts cutting edge moves on display

Those looking for a quick introduction to what’s hot in contemporary dance could spend a small bundle on a whirlwind expedition to New York. Or they could stop by the Howard Community College (HCC) this weekend where the Arts Collective Dance Company (ACDC) is mounting its annual winter program.

Opening night (postponed due to snow, of course) spotlighted 20 well-rehearsed dancers, guest artists, multimedia effects, and much more. Last night’s show is described in the program as the “intersection between art and technology.” For this writer, it was a reminder of just how far we have come with college dance programs. The HCC dance faculty, especially Elizabeth Higgins and Joan Nicholas Walker, have contributed significantly to the success of the HCC dance program.

'In This Light': Choreographer: Mat Elder. Dancers featured:  Chelsea Green and Bria White. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.
‘In This Light’: Choreographer: Mat Elder. Dancers featured: Chelsea Green and Bria White.
Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.

Mat Elder, a recent addition to the HCC dance department, proved he could hold his own with a new work for nine dancers. Set to the familiar Brahms Lullaby (in the opening and closing) and throbbing techno music in-between, In This light turns out to be a feast for the senses. The dancers weave in and out, up and down, in patterns a la Merce Cunningham. It closes dramatically with Madison Bramley, her body hooked up to flashing lights, leading the dancers to search for their own spotlight.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to behind-the-scenes wizards, Managing Director Grace Anastasiadis, Producing Artistic Director Sue Kramer, Designer Lynn Joslin, Technical Director Dave Blachowicz, Master Electrician Eric Moore, Sound specialists Dave Harton and Kyles Malone, plus Miles Johnson who handled the Light Board. Thanks for lighting these dancers and keeping them safe on stage, especially in this dance.

Helen Hayes Award winner Riki K is a multimedia designer specializing in digital integration. Her talent was obvious in Thaw where four women emerge from the icy depths of despair to the warm embrace of each other. Renee Brozic Barger created the piece for four women who shed the winter doldrums (and some of their own insecurities) to welcome a new season.

'Ready': Choreographer: Joan Nicholas-Walker. Dancers featured:  Alex Krebs, and Ricki Huff. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.
‘Ready’: Choreographer: Joan Nicholas-Walker. Dancers featured: Alex Krebs, and Ricki Huff. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.

Joan Nicholas-Walker’s Ready brought comic relief in the second act – it felt warm and fuzzy after some serious considerations, especially the wintry works. The duet is short and to the point – a lot can happen when you present a man, a woman, and a piano. Add to that ego plus flashy steps and gestures from Ricki Huff and Alex Krebs.

This show is all about the HCC students and how they respond to their mentors’ demands. And how the choreographers hone in on the talents of the young dancers. You won’t find classical ballet here. No tutus to hinder the freedom of modern dance. Instead, the dancers zigzag and bounce in place. They shake their hands to show frustration or joy. And just about everyone has a moment to thrill the audience.

Always a top reason for catching any HCC dance program is the chance to see guest artists, among them, the above-mentioned Alex Krebs, an instructor at HCC and choreographer for Kinetics Dance Theatre in Ellicott City, and Genevieve Simard, a local performer who returns as a seasoned member of ACDC. Krebs and Simard are two performers who can command an audience’s attention even when standing perfectly still.

The evening begins with Revolt, choreographed by Natalie Marrone, a fusion choreographer blending Italian folk traditions and contemporary dance forms. It was fun to watch Morgan Anderson, Chelsea Green, Alyssa Keating, Ciarra Phllip, Genevieve Simard romp about the stage in their silver and black costumes – loved the wicked black eye makeup. It was my second viewing of the dance, yet the message still remains a mystery. Perhaps the entire production might solve the puzzle. This excerpt will be performed at the Gala Concert next Saturday evening during the HCC Dance Festival.

 'Larry':  Choreographer: Joseph W. Ritsch. Dancers featured:  Jason Smith. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.
‘Larry’: Choreographer: Joseph W. Ritsch. Dancers featured: Jason Smith. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.

The first act closes with Larry, conceived and choreographed by Joseph W. Ritsch, the current Co-Producing Artistic Director of Rep Stage. This ensemble dance and theater work illuminates the tragic events surrounding the bullying and murder of Larry King.
 And much like the poignancy of The Laramie Project, it touches young people, especially those on stage last night and in the audience.

'Between the Extremes': Choreographer: Elizabeth Higgins. Dancers featured:  Bria White and Aria Rucker. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.
‘Between the Extremes’: Choreographer: Elizabeth Higgins. Dancers featured: Bria White and Aria Rucker. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.

Elizabeth Higgins’ Between the Extremes, features a trio of fierce women – Lexci Johnson, Aria Rucker, and Bria White. Dressed in plain grey pants and blackish cotton t-shirts, the ACDC dancers move in linear patters, Except for an occasional reversal of direction, the movement never varied from vigorous handshaking which makes us feel quite uncomfortable. Composed of flowing sequences of falling, leaping, crouching and those frenzied hand movements, the dance permits one to study and savor the quality of movement with extraordinary intensity. It’s a fascinating piece, and the Sound/Projections Ops, Dave Harton and Kyle Malone, deserve credit for those mesmerizing images behind the dancers.

Homage: Choreographer: Jessica Beach Dancers featured:  Madison Bramley, Emily Fuller, Kylie Giglio, Gabrielle Hardy, Lexci Johnson, Ciarra Phillip, Paula Quinteros, Shamari Taylor, and Ashley Terrell. Photo by  Emma K. McDonnell.
Homage: Choreographer: Jessica Beach. Dancers featured: Madison Bramley, Emily Fuller, Kylie Giglio, Gabrielle Hardy, Lexci Johnson, Ciarra Phillip, Paula Quinteros, Shamari Taylor, and Ashley Terrell. Photo by Emma K. McDonnell.

Homage, a tribute to Bob Fosse and his show dancers, is the second ACDC offering at the 2015 Dance Festival, an annual event that brings over 100 students to work with master teachers and professionals. Let’s hope it closes the Festival show, as it did last night (and brought down the house). Jessica Beach choreographed this showbiz finale with its red-hot lighting and sexy moves.

Running Time:  2 hours. including a 20-minute intermission.

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The ACDC Dance Company Performance performs tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 8, at 3 p.m. at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater – 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, in Columbia, MD A discussion with the cast and creative team follows the evening show. Tickets are $15 for general admission; $10 for seniors and students and can be purchased online. Note the concert is not recommended for children under 12.

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The HCC Festival of Dance Gala Concert will take place in the same Smith Theatre Saturday, March 14th at 7 p.m. Professional dance companies from the Baltimore-DC area include ChArma with Chris and Ama Law, an adjunct professor at the college; Clancyworks Dance Company; Full Circle; and Jayamangala, and Indian Dance Company, among others. For information on this concert and the weekend festival, contact the Horowitz Center Box Office at (443) 518-1500, or purchase tickets online.

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