Wooster 2009 "Stage Door" Fall Dance Concert

[Author's Note: I wasn't necessarily going to post this review, but I received some positive feedback from Kim Tritt, professor of dance, which prompted me to share (because why not, really?). The review appeared in slightly different form in the Nov. 13 issue of the Wooster Voice.]

This year's “Stage Door” fall dance concert is doubtless one of the most compelling showcases for student work to be presented this semester. The intimacy of dance “in the round” immerses the audience fully in each piece, and even under such intense scrutiny (or perhaps because of it) the concert succeeds wildly.

Each of the ten pieces was created by a different student choreographer (all of them under the direction of Kim Tritt, professor of dance), and the breadth of these assembled creations is one of the great joys of “Stage Door.” The sequencing highlights profound contrasts in mood, rhythm, and form in such a way that each successive piece is its own revelation—not a single one of them feels stale or derivative.

The first set, for instance, takes leaps of nearly bipolar extremes in three successive standout numbers. The instantly grabbing “Maniacal Somnolence” unfolds at a frenetic pace that reinforces its sense of mischief and surprise. It's followed by “Full Circle,” a beautifully focused piece that plays out like a celebration of sisterhood, and one that knows the compositional value of blank space. This gives way to the starkly dramatic “Interference”; taking its cues from traditional ballet, “Interference” is as tense and fretful as the Prokofiev music to which it's set. The cumulative effect of these contrasts is disorienting in the best sense of the word—there are no safe assumptions about what any dance holds.

One of the most distinctive aspects of this year's “Stage Door,” however, is also the glue that holds these disparate numbers together as a concerted whole. In the way “Stage Door” has long spotlighted a broad range of student talent, composition major Paul Winchester '11 is featured as prominently as anyone during the performance, creating free-form piano improvisations between each dance number. This serves not only a practical purpose, giving time to set up the next piece, but adds a crucial sense of continuity and reflection as Paul draws on the musical themes that accompanied the previous dance.

In addition to his improvisations, Paul also performs an original composition for the delicately nightmarish “Woven,” perhaps the strongest overall achievement on the program. The music, in perfect tandem with Kaitlin Yankello's wonderfully restrained choreography, builds to a breathtaking climax followed by a chilling coda. Quite simply, “Woven” is superb.

Equally noteworthy is the aptly titled “Animation Play,” which unfolds in the lobby during intermission. “Animation Play” boasts taut, theatrical performances from each of the three dancers that emphasize the piece's cartoonish humor. It's a very entertaining play on the dancing space itself and a suitably lighthearted divider between the two longer sets.

Each half of the program ends in similar territory, with a large-scale number that reminds me of contemporary Broadway. These, “Write Me a Tragedy” and “Not Juliet,” might be faulted for lacking the focused intensity or subtlety of the most memorable dances, but their placement effectively lends a sense of unity and balance to the concert. These are also ample reminders that there really is something for all tastes at “Stage Door.” As an exhibit for student music, lighting design, and dance, “Stage Door” is highly recommended.

The “Stage Door” fall dance concert will be presented Friday and Saturday at 8:15 in Freedlander Theatre.

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