‘Danceworks Fall 2015’ at George Washington University’s Department of Theatre of Dance

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International Guest Artists Bring Polish and Pizazz to MainStage at George Washington University

Some of the most exciting new choreography in town is on view at this season’s DanceWorks 2015, where guest artists from Denmark and New York City join George Washington University undergraduates for a concert of nine dazzling new works on view this weekend.

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Read on for details. But if you want to catch this production, you’d better hurry. DanceWorks, a semi-annual celebration of choreography, will have its final performance tonight.

In its first act, DanceWorks features short works by four student choreographers, ranging in style and theme from the kinetic frenzy of “Atrial Flutter” by Caroline Schau to the pure lyricism of “Entwined” by Zoe Tawa.

With echoes of some of the best of Paul Taylor and Susan Stroman—particularly in  Contact –“Entwined” is a romantic duet that stands firmly on its own. Dancers Leora Rodman and Corey Schroer bring an astonishing fluidity and power to the roles.

Marin Leggat.
Marin Leggat.

“Tiamat’s Whorl,” by guest artist Marin Leggatt, provides a visually astonishing conclusion to the first act as 13 dancers spiral in out among themselves, literally forming a female whorl as erotic as any of Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers.

Legatt, whose New York-based company is dedicated to the idea that dance can help young people to overcome the barriers of religion and culture, is no stranger to the use of ritual movement to communicate a kind of universality.

There is a soaring sense of ritual as Tiamat, the Babylonian goddess of the sea, leads her followers in a dance that evokes the sensuality and spiritualism of Martha Graham in “Clytemnestra.”

While all the dancers are wonderful, Abby Lieberman stands out for both her effortless movement and dramatic intensity. Shimmering costumes by Sydney Moore and a dramatic score by Michael Wall reinforce the power of this piece. Zoe Tawa, who also choreographed “Entwined,” is the assistant stage manager.

Of the three student works in act two, the futuristic “00401” was the most interesting for me.

Choreographed by Kendall Coniarus, it is by turns menacing and militaristic. Assistant Stage Manager Ian Dragnet alternates silence with sounds from a NASA recording, giving the dance a distinctly other-worldly feel.

Clothed entirely in black—by costume designers Jingwei Dai and Emily Yula—the warrior-like dancers make it clear that space is not a friendly place. Corey Schroer demonstrates his versatility here by shifting from his romantic role, in “Entwined,” to a very sinister one.

Annika B. Lewis.
Annika Britt Lewis.

Sparks fly—and strobe lights dance—as the final work of the evening, by Danish choreographer Annika Britt Lewis, takes the stage for a flashy, yet hilarious, finale.

“The Selfie Project”—in which the dancers really do prance about and preen as they tango with their cameras—combines Latin music with some of the wittiest staging imaginable.

One of the most brilliant touches is the use of a giant video screen that mirrors the dancers and multiplies them, over and over, until they diminish into the horizon.

The action quickly shifts from silly to Satanic, as the self-adoring dancers turn into ghouls from a variety of zombie movies.  (Think about scenes from “the Night of the Living Dead” and you’ll know what I mean.)

Although the light and video design are the work of Lewis, the Danish guest choreographer Samantha Gonzalez worked with her on the sound. Kelvin Small and Emily Yula are responsible for the hilarious costumes—whose secrets are revealed only at the end—and Gabrielle Garruppo is the assistant stage manager.

Maida Withers. Photo courtesy of The George Washington University.
Maida Withers. Photo courtesy of The George Washington University.

Much of the credit for this incredible program goes to Concert Director Maida Withers, who has been a professor at GW for more than 50 years, and Co-Director John Moletress

John Moletress.
John Moletress.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission.

DanceWorks 2015 is being performed tonight, Saturday, November 14th at 7:30 p.m. in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at The George Washington University – 800 21st Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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