Review: ‘Twenty Years with Love’ at Bowen McCauley Dance

Lucy Bowen McCauley celebrates 20 years as a choreographer and artistic director of her own company, with Twenty Years with Love, Bowen McCauley Dance, an evening of three pieces including one world premier filled with her original choreography and fantastic music.

Bach Chaconne in D minor starts with an athletic pas de deux that is soon echoed by another couple. The four dancers onstage, Joan Ayap, Alicia Curtis, Samuel Horning, and Dustin Kimball dance well together, dressed in complimentary black by Costume Designer Alicia Curtis.

Bowen McCauley has a real facility matching music and movement and the deceptively simple moves turn the piece into visual poetry as each couple echoes traditional waltzes and each other amongst acrobatic lifts.

She also excels at using the whole stage and focusing on the complete picture, including violinist Leonid Sushansky who tackles Bach with verve. During the climax of the piece, Lighting Designer Martha Mountain plays with shadows, multiplying the figures onstage for an impressive finish.

Violinist Leonid Sushansky, Alicia Curtis and Dustin D Kimball. Photo by David Moss.

Violinist Leonid Sushansky, Alicia Curtis and Dustin D Kimball. Photo by David Moss.

Apostasis is a short, moving solo to a jazzy, emotional piano piece by Michael White, played by Marguerita Oundjian Smith. Alvin Tovstogray solos in street clothes, dancing in a dramatic spotlight. It’s the story of lost love told in endless pirouettes and dramatic leaps. He balances his athleticism, artistry, and emotion well. It’s a short, sweet, yet impressive suite.

The highlight of the evening is Ars Amatoria, a world premier of both choreography by Bowen McCauley and score by Larry Alan Smith. The three acts explore the three books of Ovid’s “how-to” on love.  The 2000 year old advice on how guys can get a girl, girls can get a guy and both can keep love is as relevant as ever. The music is fun and quick, played by an unusual combo of piano, cello, clarinet, oboe, and English horn. Book 1 begins with a series of echoed movements between boy and girl – flirting and showing off while Cupid leaps between them, all in colorful Greek robes by Costume Designer Marilyn Johnson.

There is a lot of humor in the exchanges but then it turns serious as one boy succeeds with his love in a sweet pas de deux. The first date commences with Bacchus’ help and a deceptively simple piano and clarinet solo. A table presents a great opportunity for a number of tableaus with all dancers spread over the benches.

Photo by David Moss.

Premiere of ‘Ars Amatoria’ by Larry Alan Smith,Dancers: Abigail Farina, Dustin Kimball, Alicia Curtis, Samuel Horning, Alexandra Keen, and Brook Urquhart. Photo by David Moss.

Book 2 moves into keeping the girl with a cello solo and a spinning battle with cupid. The differences in choreography between the men and women emphasize the war of genders in the story. The men conspire to a driving English Horn solo which ends in a company-wide, stage-spanning joyful celebration.

The oboe launches Book 3 as the women let down their hair to hook the men. The piece ends slowly, which is an interesting choice, as each couple meets in a slow-motion cannon before a triumphant final dance.

Photo by David Moss.

Joan Ayap, Dustin Kimball, Alicia Curtis, Abigail Farina, and Sam Horning. Photo by David Moss.

The contemporary feel with classical moves and the diversity of music was a perfect homage to Bowen McCauley’s greatest dances and twenty years of leadership in the DC arts community. This was the perfect love letter to her wonderful career that shows no sign of slowing down. Watch a video preview here.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Twenty Years with Love, Bowen McCauley Dance played for one weekend only, March 18 and 19, 2016 at Bowen McCauley Dance performing at The Kennedy Center Terrace Theater – 2700 F Street NW, in Washington, DC. For upcoming Bowen McCauley performances, please see their calendar of events. For all Kennedy Center performances, please see their calendar of events.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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