Review of Fall Dance Concert: Heart & Soul
Directed by Nichele Van Portfleet
Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Evert. B Person Theatre

RUN: December 3-6, 2015
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

December 4, 2015

This is a performance of mixed dance styles that are choreographed and performed by students of Sonoma State University, and is a delightful evening for dance enthusiasts.

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Photo by David Papas

Lit
5 of 5 stars
Choreography by: Maddie Watson in collaboration with the dancers
Music: Son Lux, Zoe Keating

An atmospheric piece of deep longing undermined by fear, Lit exposes the entire stage, including the wings, lit by strung lights high out of reach, a glow that is near enough to see but not experience. There is an emphasis on the feet pointing and flexing, breaking the otherwise lyrical quality of the piece, layering on its message. The costuming is a stunning array of ink splashed flowing gowns.

The Art of Expression
3.5 of 5 stars
Choreography by Peter A in collaboration with the dancers
Music: The XX, Bironnex, 6ix Toys, Naruto OST

Merging Eastern and Western sensibilities in an angular array of geometric lighting design by Mark Wilson, the piece is primarily mimed. It feels experimental, using video clips of Bruce Lee book-ending the action, and moves suddenly between extreme emotions, well executed by the dancers.

Empty and Marvelous
3 of 5 stars
Choreography by James DeSoto
Music: Mark McKinney, James DeSoto, voice of Fina Wheeler

This modest piece is simple, accompanied by live drummers. The dancers use natural percussion to add detail to the soundscape, such as slapping feet on the floor. It evokes the Flower Child movement of the 1960s, with colored skirts and free-flowing hair, whirling in circles. The dance is interesting, but lacking a spark to it.

Hysteria: A Portrait of “Insanity”
3 of 5 stars
Choreography by Stephanie DeGroote
Music: Midnight Syndicate, Emilie Autumn

It is clear that research went into this piece. I have visited Victorian insane asylums that have been turned into museums, and what went on was rather disturbing, particularly since men could commit women simply because they wished to be rid of them. While I admire the sentiment, the dance is rather heavy handed with the subject matter. Costuming and makeup are excellent, and the use of stillness juxtaposed with terrified jerking movement quite ominous, but it does not have much emotional impact, because the choreography strays toward farce too easily. The choice of music is perfect for the extreme depiction of an asylum, featuring Emilie Autumn’s Take the Pill to great effect.

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Photo by David Papas

Operational
4 of 5 stars
Choreography: Katy Lohse in collaboration with the dancers
Music: Safia

This is the most unique piece of the evening, using exaggerated shadows similar to Fred Astaire in Swing Time’s famous piece. The dancers are costumed identically in black page boy wigs, with expressionless doll-like movements that reminded me of Leeloo in The Fifth Element. The dancing is excellent, keeping to small staccato movements in a fascinating piece.

For Example
5 of 5 stars
Choreography: Hannah Ingwerson in collaboration with the dancers
Music: Ólafur Arnalds

Post-apocalyptic styling creates an earthy grounded scene, accompanied by lyrical piano that melts the heart. The dancers embody broken suffering survivors of trauma, quietly creating the message that Hysteria tried to convey. This piece is truly moving, almost bringing me to tears. It is worth attending the performance to see.

TheBOARD
3 of 5 stars
Choreography: Jasen Valdez
Music: Johnny Stimson, Chance The Rapper, Lil B, Beyoncé, Omarion

This is a quilt of various music and dance styles, but its execution is a bit sloppy and does not have enough of a thread to keep it feeling like a completed piece. The iPhone projected throughout is certainly relevant to modern times, but I’m not sure what it did to accompany the dance, it felt like more of a distraction. There is a lot going on with this dance, and pieces of it were well done, but it does not feel fully realized as a unit.

Vital(ity)
3.5 of 5 stars
Choreography: Farrah McAdam in collaboration with the dancers
Music: Ólafur Arnalds

Layered on monotone music, this energetic dance features lovely extension lines, and must have been a challenge to the stamina of the performers. It keeps a level of high animation throughout, and is quite floor based, using levels to advantage. There is unfortunately little substance to the piece—it was pretty to watch, but the dancing is not of a high level of accomplishment, and the choreography somewhat repetitive without having a clear theme.

Hey Ladies
3 of 5 stars
Choreography: Brenda Lopez
Music: Alicia Keys, Missy Elliot, Eminem (DJ), Sia, Major Lazor, Rihanna

Grrl power explodes onstage in a splashy dance with bold lighting and showy choreography. While it radiates attitude, there isn’t enough powerful dancing backing it up, and the movement does not fully utilize the dynamic music.

The World Enders
4 of 5 stars
Choreography: Christina Kitchen
Music: Unknown

Femme fatales invade with deadly elegance in a strongly Noir piece. The opening is entirely in dramatic silhouettes—it is like watching the opening credits to a James Bond movie live on stage. If Audrey Hepburn turned bad girl in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this would be the result.

Study Break
5 of 5 stars
Choreography: Take 5
Music: Lea Salonga, Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel, Alan Menken, The Cheetah Girls

Using props can be difficult, but they are handled with alacrity in this fabulous comedic piece. It weaves between popular music, from umbrella toting Disney princesses, played to hilarious effect by male dancers, to I Don’t Dance while balancing on top of a couch wielding a baseball bat. It is extremely clever, even utilizing the stage manager in a cameo appearance, with fascinating and varied movement. This is parody dancing at its best.

The performance concludes with a lively coda, interweaving elements of choreography from the pieces of the evening in an entertaining manner. Sonoma State’s Fall Dance Concert is dynamic and diverse with strong performing skills among the dancers.