The UMKC School of Dance last Thursday presented the Spring Dance Concert, a collection of performances choreographed by the Conservatory’s DeeAnna Hiett, Bernard Gaddis, Paula Webber, Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Ronn Tice, Ming Xia, and Gary Abbott.
Right from the very beginning, the concert’s level of intensity was suddenly ramped up to ridiculous by a beautiful, yet simply titanic, work by DeeAnna Hiett. It was known simply as “A Series of Impressions”.
Working with a female group of dancers, Hiett combined both rigid and mechanical movements with looser, flowing moves, which with the large collection of dancers, made an intense, surging body of movement which at times seemingly wanted to explode off of the stage.
This was coupled with bright and abstract projections shown on a screen behind the dancers, as well as low, bright orange and purple lighting coming from the sides of the stage. These lights created large silhouettes of the dancers upon the walls, completely disorienting the audience and willing them to embark on a dramatic visionary trip.
Hiett used a very particular selection of music for the piece that propelled the work’s enormous power: the explosive and earth-shattering booms of the Los Angeles production company’s “Two Steps From Hell” from its 2007 album, “All Drums Go To Hell.” This music, when echoing through the space of White Recital Hall and accompanied with the vicious stomping of the dancers on stage, made to see, as the audience was being presented glimpses from the very first moments of chaos on earth.
Not all the dances performed were steeped in modernism. Some spoke to classical ballet. Aa gorgeous example was Paula Webber’s “Variations with Episodes,” which used the second movement, the Andante from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major. Using both male and female dancers, Webber eloquently represented beauty and grace as the dancers floated across the stage, males dancing with female partners when in formation. At times. Only two dancers were on stage. There were moments when the female dancers danced to the piano sections, and the men to the string and percussion sections, a;; in perfect sync.
The Andante movement is slower than the two allegros that make up the first and third movements of the concerto. In using this, Webber’s dancers worked slower at times, demonstrating perfect form and poise. The subdued purple and blue hues that changed to magenta and teal lit the back screen and created a very dream-like quality to the dance.
What this dance concert was was an incredible and poignant celebration of form, beauty, and refinement. Each performance pushed farther the idea of beauty in the movements of the human form. Streamlined, graceful, and powerful, this dance concert was truly a sight, not just to behold, but cherish.