The Middlebury Campus

Simply Light

Dancers unite in Simply Light. (Courtesy/Simply Light)

Dancers unite in Simply Light. (Courtesy/Simply Light)

Dancers unite in Simply Light. (Courtesy/Simply Light)

By Alan Sutton

Tomorrow evening, the Dance Company Middlebury will begin its tour of Simply Light in the Mahaney Center for the Arts before travelling to Smith College, the Monterrey Institute for International Studies, and various public venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Six students and one alumnus, Paul Matteson ’00, perform in the concert. Cameron McKinney ’14 joins Matteson and professors Catherine Cabeen, Andrea Olsen and Peter Schmitz as a contributing choreographer.

Simply Light takes full advantage of its form as a repertory concert. Each of the seven pieces offers something distinct, creating a compelling experience that raises a plethora of issues and questions. The degree to which the pieces are dissimilar is one of concert’s greatest strengths, almost constantly forcing the viewer to change their mood and the trajectory of their expectations for the remainder of the evening. The breadth of emotional and intellectual stimuli captured in this concert is a treat for seasoned dance fans and promises accessibility to those who are not familiar with contemporary dance.

“I think it is curious that there are so many different ways that one can approach creating contemporary dance,” said Olsen, also the current artistic director of the Dance Company of Middlebury.

“I think one of the challenges for the dancers is to figure out which way each artist is viewing and exploring space.”

Olsen worked with Hannah Pierce ’13 to create a solo piece that is an absolute delight. Pierce’s movement feels carefree yet is highly polished. She commands the large space given her with apparent ease, playfully allowing gravity to seize control of her limbs as she romps about the stage, seemingly aimless and making me yearn for a world of greater simplicity.

McKinney’s piece is a powerhouse of energy and strength, drawing on House movement and music styles to create an intense experience for performers and viewers. The piece cleverly starts questioning how technology affects human interaction. The precision of dancers Jessica Lee ’13 and Meredith White ’15 deserves many congratulations, as do McKinney’s improvisational abilities (he improvises throughout the piece).

The concert is wildly inventive without feeling too foreign. Schmitz’s trio creation involves particularly curious movement choices that seem to resist any recognizable style of movement and constantly manipulates line.

“It’s not organic, it’s something new,” explained Schmitz.

The beauty of the straight line is given its moments in Schmitz’s trio, as are perfect arcs, imperfect circles, childish squiggles, and sharp angles. The piece is extraordinarily detailed (most moments involve all the forms of line I just described) and its originality of is matched both by its choreographer’s wit and its performers’ finesse.

“It’s a challenge to do, it’s a challenge to watch, and I think [Schmitz] wants that. I don’t think he wants something where you can say, ‘oh this is expected,’” said Doug LeCours ’15, joined in this piece by Pierce and Sarae Snyder ‘15.

Cabeen’s piece, opening the second half of the show, is among the concert’s darker pieces. There is a sense of constant, present multiplicity of attitudes in this piece, yet the piece (like the concert as a whole) achieves undeniable cohesion. It is a visual feast as a full student-company performance, and someone manages to make me feel suspense despite a lack of narrative behind the piece (or, more likely thanks to some number of buried narratives each artist brought to the creation of this piece). Accompanied by a high risk of collision and an effective electronic score, this piece screams with emotion.

Simply Light begins at 8 p.m. Jan. 25 and 26 in the Dance Theater of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Centre for the Arts.

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