The annual 2015 Mainstage Dance performance celebrated the hard work of the dancers and choreographers and a farewell to a beloved professor.
The combination of the two filled the audience with loved ones of the performers, as well as alumni of the admired program.
Mainstage, the University of Calgary’s annual dance showcase that has been a hit since the early 1970’s and , opened on the eve of March 19 with many cheers of adoration and love.
The cheers, whoops and whistles increased from the audience as the Star Wars theme started up and a long list of BA Dance student’s names ran up the projector screen in its famous galactic fashion.
If Star Wars music wasn’t enough to melt the hearts of those who had an emotional connection to the U of C dance program, the slide show displaying professor and dancer Anne Flynn’s career did. After the dedicated photomontage ended, At Last by Etta James accompanied video testaments from Flynn’s past students that even brought a tear to my eye.
All of a sudden with another round of roaring applause, the sentiments and elongated tribute of sappy feelings were over.
The four different dances that made up the two and half hour show were completely different from one another in terms of themes and choreography. Nonetheless, what all four had in common was the exceptional skill of the dancers and the abstract impression that left me both amazed and perplexed throughout the show.
Full- time U of C choreographers and professors Woljciech Mochniej, Melissa Monteros, and Michelle Moss collaborated with guest choreographer Milan Kozanek this year to create Mainstage. Each of the four works was created by one of these amazing artists, and each had a different inspiration and method for their piece.
The uniqueness of the pieces accompanied by a distinctive selection of music, mood and lighting gave each piece it’s own original world where new perspectives and narratives exist.
The performance was kicked off by the contemporary work Pure, choreographed by Woljciech Mochniej. Dancer, Odessa Johnston, ran across the stage before performing a graceful solo and exiting in a billowing white gown. Behind her, a choir sang adding to the ambiance of mystery.
With an ominous change in the music, the empty stage filled with the team of dancers all in the same simplistic white shirt, grey boy shorts and black thigh high socks. An eerie air flowed through the piece as the dancers held a hand to their hearts in moments of breath, intertwining between one another they looked tortured in a strikingly beautiful way.
Photo Credit Aldona B Photography
Golden light illuminated three metronomes in the beginning of Milan Kozanek’s choreographed work Shiny Metal. They played like a constant rhythm through his piece, which focused on the routines we go through in life, with each metronome individually ticking back in forth in their own time.
The dancers in his piece acted alone in separate dance and non-dance movements, creating their own patterns until they joined together in a group. Their flawless unison seemed to show how, in the brief moments in which humans spend together, the rhythm of their lives syncs up until they are on their own again.
This was well captured through the entrance and of exit of dancers who would join the group in their synchronized movement before leaving seconds later.
An intermission was well needed after the second work was applauded with gusto. It acted as a moment for the audience to not only stretch their legs but also let their minds and eyes reset in order to take in a next set of abstract pieces with full appreciation.
As a two-man percussion band was set up stage right, the set was bathed in magenta for Adventures in Steam and Phunk, choreographed by Michelle Moss who was also the artistic director for the night’s show.
Moss’s work looked to be the most stylized piece of the Mainstage Dance performance, no attention to the detail of costume or set was overlooked. The specific inspiration of the movers and steam punk movements permeated her piece with a screen projection on the dance floor that flickered through images of old film reels, clogs and clocks, and through costumes that were futuristic and historic at the same time.
The energetic attitude of the dancers stood out in Moss’s upbeat work., Tthe performers constantly wore an ear-to-ear smile in this piece that celebrated confidence and “unflinching individuals.”
The final work of the night was Tracings by Melissa Monteros. It followed in a similar simplistic costume style as Shiny Metal; the dancers wore a solid-coloured shirt and pants.
Monteros’ piece focused on connections between people. This was accomplished , through voiceless conversations made up of beautiful dance motion and guttural non-dance motions. I felt themes of love and loneliness were expressed.
While in pairs or groups, the dancers explored the idea that, when alone in the world we have no movement, but together we create motion. The lifeless beginning and end of the piece where dancers fell to the floor alone portrayed this theme with a blatant effect.
In the surprisingly comfortable theatre seats my body wanted to move in the same staccato and fluid rhythms that were unfolding in front of me, walking out of the theatre the urge to join the departing cast in dance had still not dissipated.
For those who do not know dance, and are unaccustomed to a lack of straightforward story lines, the abstract quality of the performance may make the works hard to follow. They are however, nonetheless beautiful, artistic and mastered by the choreographers and performers for this quality.
The Mainstage Dance performance did an excellent job of showcasing the dedication and hard work that the dancers and the choreographers put into their show. No step seemed out of place and every emotion was expressed with such practiced performance that it felt as real as if you were on stage with them in their separate worlds.