I’ll be the first to admit that I am possibly the least qualified person I know to speak about dance. Despite years of lessons, my pliés were shocking, I never quite got the hang of fifth position, and my pirouettes posed a danger to myself and others. My career as a prima ballerina came to a rather abrupt halt when, after being relegated to the back corner for yet another recital, I decided to try my hand at contact sports, and that was that. However, having seen some amazing DanceSoc performances in the past, I jumped at the chance to review Impulse/Un(Conscious). St Andrews is home to some incredible choreographic and dance talent, and last night was a small but brilliant showcase of their hard work and creative flair.
As the name suggests, the evening was split into two shows: Impulse, and then (Un)Conscious. In the program’s welcome message, Producer Lottie Barker explains that the choreographers were given complete control of their pieces, from genre to length to music choice. They explored a wide variety of themes, emotions, and concepts, but the overall atmosphere of the production remained coherent and unified. The performances were incredibly powerful and the tone was unexpectedly dark, particularly in (Un)Conscious.
The opening piece, Impulse, choreographed and performed by Thomas Götz, was a study about the effects of force and time on the body. He examined the scientific definition of “impulse” through movement, and the result was an engaging and attention-grabbing piece that got the audience excited for the rest of the performances. Salvation, choreographed by Victoria Bushnell was an incredibly moving exploration of the female experience of miscarriage and infertility. I’d be lying if I said that this one didn’t get me a little bit choked up. From the music choice, to the dancers’ highly emotive execution of the choreography, to the Sylvia Plath excerpt in the program, the entire piece was truly poignant and thoughtful. Social Sp(l)aces, choreographed and performed by Thomas Götz and Marion Cronin, might have been my favorite performance of the evening. The dancers studied the correlation between a relationship and a place, and the dynamic between the two of them made the performance truly fun and interesting to watch, not to mention it inspired a lot of thought about the questions they were exploring. Fight or Flight was also a really engaging performance to watch. I especially loved how each segment of the dance was paired with very different musical accompaniments. It was one of the longer pieces, and even I, as someone who knows next to nothing about dance, found every minute to be really exciting.
After a quick intermission, the (Un)Conscious half of the show began with Not Waving but Drowning, choreographed by Selina Lau. This piece explored the five stages of drowning: surprise, involuntary breath holding, unconsciousness, hypoxic convulsions, and clinical death. With the use of spoken word, onstage costume changes, and face paint, Not Waving but Drowning felt more theatrical than the others. At one point, the dancers began coughing and struggling for breath, which gave the audience quite a shock and, I felt, really made us engage more closely with what was being presented. The concept behind the performance was really original, and so incredibly well done that when the lights went out I felt genuinely shook-up, as if I’d just had a near-drowning experience myself. To convey the total shutdown of the body and mind is a pretty tall order, but I felt that it was executed flawlessly. Mirror was choreographed by Shannon Callahan, and was accompanied by music by Evan Cunningham, College of William and Mary ’16, composed specifically for the show. I found this piece incredibly eerie; between the music, the dancers’ highly expressive movements, and the way they literally mirrored each other’s motions, Mirror was truly thought provoking. Irreversible, choreographed by Agnes Valovics, mixed things up with some hip-hop. Although the theme was somber in the end, the change in style was refreshing and perfectly-timed, not to mention the dancers quite simply looked like they were having the time of their lives. Shari Sharpe choreographed the final piece, Se7en, which explored the seven deadly sins. Using lighting, music changes, and makeup and costume alterations, each of the seven dancers represented a deadly sin. Again, although this was a longer piece, there was never a dull moment; I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, analyzing each dancer’s movements and how they might represent a certain sin. It really kept me on my toes!
The Barron Theatre is fairly small, and while I imagine it must have presented some problems for the choreography, they did a fantastic job of utilizing the space and at least from the audience’s perspective, the size of the stage did nothing to detract from the powerful messages the dancers were presenting. At a couple points, the speakers sounded slightly muffled and choppy, but the performances were so engaging that nobody really took notice. My only real complaint from the evening was that the curtain calls were too short, and we barely had time to applaud the dancers for their amazing work. Overall though, I was really impressed with how the DanceSoc crew was able to address so many themes and ideas in the same show in such a powerful way.
Impulse/(Un)Conscious was one of those shows that stays with an audience long after the curtain call, due to not only the talent of the performers and choreographers, but also the sheer amount of honest, unadulterated passion that they clearly have for the arts. They truly embraced the creative spirit of On the Rocks, and if that was only Monday night, I can’t wait for what the rest of the week has in store.