The Drexel University Dance Program kicked off its winter concert, “Surrounding Us,” Jan. 24 at the Mandell Theater, and it is safe to say that it was fierce, weird and heartwarming. The concert had 11 choreographed numbers. Eight of them were created by students, two were by faculty, and one was by local professional Leah Stein, the director of Leah Stein Dance Co.
The concert started with the piece “Dear Bailey,” choreographed by senior dance major Patricia Betz. The piece began with silence, save for the faint sound of galloping horses. The dancers lifted each other up, pranced around the stage and danced phenomenally. These first few moments really highlighted the flexibility, fluidity and strength of the female form. Suddenly streamers fell from the ceiling as “You” by Gold Panda started playing. Immediately the performers synced up with a joyful playfulness as more streamers shot out of the ceiling and the music amplified.
The second piece, “Proficiscitur,” which is Latin for “sets,” was choreographed by junior biology and dance major Erica Henn. The first word that comes to mind with this piece is anemone. For the majority of the piece, the dancers were on their knees sliding around in groups. What was mesmerizing about the pieces was that all the dancers waved and slid around in sync, even when they couldn’t see each other. One would think that dancing was impossible without moving around on legs, but the piece’s soloist, senior Karlee Markarian, proved otherwise. With only her arms, Markarian performed moves similar to ballerinas while the sets of dancers in the background followed her lead. The choreography definitely leads the audience to believe that Henn is a biology major. The synchronization can easily be compared to the beauty that exists in biological systems. When one dancer made a motion, the rest followed like rows of dominoes falling on each other to make a grand reaction.
The following piece, “Playing with Shadows,” choreographed by junior Victoria Vardilli, was all about the legs. It was nice juxtaposition on the part of the director to have this piece follow “Proficiscitur,” which hardly used any leg movement. Dancers ran around the stage spinning and slowing to make kicking movements while others exited the stage. As soon as one dancer left the stage, another ran in from the opposite side, jumping and kicking simultaneously with a partner. The combinations mixed perfectly with the tunes of Death Cab for Cutie and The Killers.
The last of the fierce pieces was “When Sounds Collide,” choreographed by junior dance major Catherine Natter. The piece began with three motionless women onstage. One danced to the description of her typical day from beginning to end with the sounds of urban life in the background. The other two dancers followed the same pattern as more dancers entered the stage. The piece did not have any kind of music but instead featured everyday background noises. Overall the piece was a great example of the universality we all have in our lives. Every person in any heavily trafficked area experiences people coming at them from every direction. It’s a systematic chaos that we have grown accustomed to as residents of a large city. The piece ends with dancers making a gasping pattern that dies out as they exit the stage one by one.
One of the strangest pieces of the concert was “Overtone,” choreographed by Stein. The piece involved dancers doing trust falls around the stage with no music. Everyone wore green and surrounded themselves with each other, dancing synchronously. So many dancers moving on different parts of the stage made everything seem so convoluted that I just had no idea what was happening. All I could do was watch with an arched eyebrow while trying to make sense of the performance.
The heartwarming performances were “Unseen,” choreographed by senior dance major and recently crowned Miss Philadelphia Lauren Bilski, and “What’s Inside,” choreographed by senior dance major Heather Otten.
Bilski’s piece was a one-woman performance that narrated the plight of an unseen woman in a big city. Bilski’s movements beautifully captured the pain in solitude and reassured everyone that everything will be fine in the end.
Otten’s piece started with senior dance major Erica Pike warning the audience of the evils of mortals. It seems like it would be sad, but the white-blue feathery dresses the dancers wore proved otherwise. The dancers flowed around the stage as one dancer spoke and danced her fears, only to be swept up in the comfort of her comrades. Overall, the number was extremely positive with its message of perseverance.
Kudos to the Drexel Dance Ensemble for putting together a spectacular concert. The title of the concert was evident in the performances, as dancers truly did surround each other in every manner