Emerging Choreographers are D.O.P.E

By Acacia DiCiaccio

Courtesy UMass Department of Music and Dance
Courtesy UMass Department of Music and Dance

This past weekend, University dancers put on a “D.O.P.E.” performance at Hampshire College Dance Studio Theater.

Ten dance students choreographed their own pieces for the program. The Alive with Dance RSO sponsored the Emerging Choreographers series, titled “D.O.P.E.: Dancers of a Provoking Existence.” This program allows sophomore and junior dance majors the chance to present their own choreography on stage. Anyone can audition for this event, so some non-majors were able to perform as well. Though Hampshire College’s auditorium was small, the artists behind the work displayed there showed great talent.     

The event began with Christen Vanyur’s piece entitled “Top of the World,” where three couples broke out in a hip-hop routine to The Cataracs song of the same title. This piece warmed up the audience with a flirtatious and upbeat performance, and was the only dance of its genre.

Following the opening piece was a contemporary ballet choreographed by Blake Fishman. This dance played with the relation and harmony between the five dancers and their bodies.

Many of the pieces in “D.O.P.E.” experimented with the boundaries of ballet and modern dance. Pieces like “Finding [my] Place” by Karin Linden and “No Strings Attached” by Kate Citron and Channing Hoover used both genres of dance to create their works of art. In the same method, Tristan Drummond choreographed the second piece in his series entitled “Chronicles,” involving three separate stories that appeared to intertwine. His piece also showed the graceful side to male dancers as he introduced the piece with himself and two other male dancers in a short ballet piece, which contrasted with the men in “Top of the World.”

 “Manipulation” by Becca Green was visually and artistically stunning. The piece began with dancers as silhouettes before a red background. The piece explored manipulation of the body as well as sound, when the dancers made new rhythms by clapping during musical breaks. The long-limbed dancers chosen for this piece did a spectacular job exploring space and movement in a visually stunning way.

As the title suggests, the performances illustrated the provoking existence of the human experience. Justine Picarello’s modern piece “Crossed Roads” commented on the difference between naive young adults and the exploration that comes with age, illustrated by dancers bound in handcuffs and then breaking away. “Crossed Roads” was truly able to illustrate the talent of the dancers in the piece with the choreography chosen.

Laura Natario’s choreography for her piece “Asteria & Eos” focused heavily on the strengths of the two male dancers accented by a group of plainly dressed female dancers. The costume designs, music and intricate choreography made for a captivating piece.

The show closed with Tara Brown’s “Whitewash,” meant to illustrate the struggle of dancers whose worlds are consumed with dance and struggle with perfection. The theme behind the piece, as well as costume, music and lighting all echoed the themes of the popular ballet movie, “Black Swan.” The performers wore white tutus with cut-up black shirts over them and their dance was organized chaos on the stage. The music, the title track from the movie “Requiem for a Dream,” fed well into the vision for the piece. As the final dancer fell to the ground and lights went out, cheers echoed through the concert hall. These choreographers held the audience captivated until the very end.  

Alive with Dance will also be performing on Friday and Saturday at the Bowker Auditorium. This event will feature UMass’ Dance major seniors and their choreography. Tickets for students are only $5 for students and can be purchased through the Fine Arts Center box office at (413) 545-2511.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]