Young Dance: Found in Translation
Gala Performance, Friday, May 2nd, 2014, 8pm
ROTATOR by Chris Schlichting and Morgan Thorson
ROTATOR starts abruptly. There is an audible pop of stage lights clicking on; they flare bright and slowly re-adjust. Lit masterfully by Heidi Eckwall, this type of plain, yet conspicuous lighting design is used to great effect in many of Thorson’s works. It’s not long before the stage is energized with the formation and dissolution of groups. Phrases reappear in different locations on the stage, performed by different dancers, in different facings, yet the execution is clear and defined, and there is no mistake that ROTATOR intends to show you its movement vocabulary from as many angles as the dance can sustain. These phrases vary in vocabulary and style, some are fairly spatially confined, involving only a few shuffles of the feet and jutting arms and hands. Other phrases, like the stag leaps that travel in long curves, erupt across the stage in regular time, dancers thrusting themselves into the air, arms propelling up and out.
Dressed in loose jersey tops and leggings of grey and navy, each dancer has lines of neon tape that interrupt this drab, direct costume. There is uniformity and individualization. The choreography designates no dancer more important or skilled than another, yet Hope Grathwol, one of the high school company members, stands out for her sheer exuberance and focused stage presence.
ROTATOR is a kaleidoscope, crafted in a way that encompasses the matters of making, staging, and performing dance. It is slick with its lighting, but it makes no attempt to hide its slickness. You see almost all of the vocabulary within the first quarter of the dance, but, masterfully efficient, ROTATOR continues to re-purpose these phrases, creating a visually mesmerizing design with shifting points of focus. It showcases the talented young women who study with Young Dance, and, not surprisingly, it holds up to the quality of work that Schlichting and Thorson are known for. As the last dancer walked into the wings, the lights went down, and the audience responded appropriately with generous applause. By virtue of its success, ROTATOR raises questions about what is necessary for producing high quality dance, and it proves that professional dancers are not among the requirements.