The Drexel Dance Ensemble held its spring concert, titled “Piece of Mind,” the weekend of May 31 through June 2. The performance showcased the work of eight student-choreographers, a Drexel faculty member and a professional guest artist. I was lucky enough to snag an interview with one of these student-choreographers, Drexel junior and Miss Philadelphia pageant winner Lauren Bilski.
“It’s a very exciting time for the dance majors,” Bilski said of the biannual showcase. “It’s an opportunity for dancers from all majors to work together. … It’s always such an incredible performance.” Bilski was one of the show’s student-choreographers and was recently crowned Miss Philadelphia.
Just shy of 20 different majors are represented in the Dance Ensemble, and the work shown is indicative of the diversity of the dancers’ backgrounds. The pieces ranged from the elegant to the existential to the very light-hearted and almost satirical.
Bilski’s piece, “To Escape the Absolute,” was named after and inspired by the Robert Matta painting. It definitely lies on the side of elegance. Based on the idea of striving for perfection, this particular work is almost haunting in its beauty. The wispy flow of the costumes and the graceful, controlled choreography captivate the eye of the audience from start to finish and flutter in the memory long after.
One of my favorite pieces was the show’s opening performance, “Equilibrium,” choreographed by design and merchandising senior Samara Cifelli. The dance was set to live music played by Drexel’s own Wild Rompit. The piece had a very contemporary feel. The choreography ebbed and flowed out of synchronizing with the music’s rhythm.
I found myself amazed at how sharply and deliberately the dancers hit the beats of the music. Live music can change easily from performance to performance, and any little faux pas on either end would have been noticeable. Both the band and the dancers performed in perfect harmony and set the bar extremely high.
The second performance was a highly symbolic, very cerebral piece choreographed by senior dance major Eileen Moran. “Memory’s Trap” explored the combination of dance and video media. While an earlier performance was projected onto the stage’s backdrop, two groups of dancers moved behind giant frames hung onstage. A single dancer performed between the two. It appeared that dancers behind the frames were counterparts.
The costumes of the performers at stage left were treated to look dirty and torn, and their makeup was applied to look runny. The dancers on the right were left unblemished. Granted, it took a while for the connection to register. It wasn’t until the groups faced opposite directions that it became apparent that they represented two sides of the same concept. “Memory’s Trap” was definitely the most intellectually complex of the pieces and the only one performed sans music.
Pieces like “CHAIRish” (Claire DeLiso and Katie Porkka) and “Thingamajig” (Leah Spangler) were welcome, upbeat examples of good old entertainment. “CHAIRish” had a chorus-line feel. Its choreography, however precisely executed, clearly made fun of itself.
“Thingamajig” was a Rube Goldberg machine of brightly clad human bodies knocking into one another and tumbling, but the piece somehow artfully managed to turn “clumsiness” into this intricate locomotive process. These colorful works, with their bright costumes (some of which included shiny pants), were a nice reminder that art doesn’t have to take itself too seriously.
On the final night of the concert, Miriam Giguere, head of the dance department, presented awards to four outstanding graduating seniors in the ensemble. Kristia Morabito, Caroline O’Brien, Eileen Moran and Ashley Jacobs were honored for their achievements in performance, choreography, academics and overall contributions to the dance department. Also honored was Kariamu Welsh, recipient of the 2012 Ellen Forman Memorial Award.