Reviews - USA

Dance Canvas

14th Street Playhouse, Atlanta GA
January 2012

By Deborah Searle.

Dance Canvas is a collective celebration of dance in Atlanta.  Run by Executive Artistic Director Angela Harris, Dance Canvas is a career development organization for emerging choreographers and youth, providing dancers and dance creators with an outlet to develop and present their work.

Last weekend, Dance Canvas presented the 2012 Performance Series at Atlanta’s 14th Street Playhouse, highlighting the work of these eager choreographers. With a varied show of contemporary, jazz, tap and ballet, Dance Canvas had something for everyone.

Although not every dancer, or dance piece was outstanding, there were enough surprising, technically beautiful moments, and well developed pieces, to get us engaged and excited about dance in this city.

The evening started with Seis Almas, choreographed by Ray Hall.  This contemporary number had some creative moments, and a well-constructed end. The dancers performed nicely and Ray is sound mover. At times, however, he needed to extend his feet more, particularly in jumps. Ray’s other work on show, Intricate Rhythms, which came later in the program, displayed his tap expertise and his strong rhythmic sense.  With a powerful beginning and a strong a capella tapping sequence to end, Intricate Rhythms was a highlight of the evening. The two male performers, Ray himself and Jake Albert, were standouts.  If the stage had been mic-ed, it would have added to the performance as at times it was difficult to hear all the tappers’ steps.

Jennifer Mason & Colbie Zeno present 'Apocalypse of the Soul'. Photo Richard Calmes

Katie McMillen Stull’s On the Run followed Seis Almas and was a technically strong pointe piece danced in flattering low back, black leotards with romantic tutus.  The piece had nice musicality, showcasing beautiful dancers who radiated elegance.

Next came Apocalypse of the Soul, by Robert Mason, which was danced with dedication by its two performers; Jennifer Mason and Colbie Zeno.  It showed one lady’s battle with cancer and the grief felt by her friend.  It was a very engaging and emotional piece.  Both dancers had lovely extensions and performed the anguished dancing with commitment, however I felt that there was an overuse of développé à la seconde.  The piece could have easily come across as a little trite, but it obviously drew me in as I found myself with chills up my spine.

The upbeat jazzy number, Liberation, by Emily Vanderkley was next. The energetic piece centered around women’s liberation in the 60s and 70s and showed much dynamics by the performers.  The ending silhouette of the dancers all with their fists in the air was distinct.

After the intermission we were treated to a piece by Kennesaw State University student Jamie McCord entitled Contra Moves.  Dance Canvas and KSU have developed a new partnership and Jamie is the first student to receive the opportunity to present as part of the choreographic platform.  Although still a student, Jamie showed why she was chosen to stage work. Her piece showed maturity and musicality, and I was engaged throughout. Her dancers were all technically strong and they captured the audience.  The movement was interesting and very contemporary, with a pedestrian feel at times.  McCord created motifs and repeated moments that brought the piece together. I was impressed with her work.

A tough act to follow, we were then presented with Between the Worlds by Tracy Vogt.  Between the Worlds involved a series of breathtaking pas de deux and exquisite dancing.  Tracey herself is a stunning dancer with so much light and shade in her movement. Between the Worlds was a standout piece.

To introduce each number, the audience were given some text projected onto the cyclorama. It was sometimes a quote, or an explanation of the work to come.  For Await, by Sandra Parks, we were told of the orphans of China who must wait for adoption in the most horrible circumstances.  Await was a well constructed piece with clever use of lighting and spotlights, nice floor work, good connecting movements and some unique lines.

Juxtaposed with the many dancers of Await, Path which followed, was performed by lone dancer Tamara Irving. Choreographed by Dana Woodruff, Path was an engaging piece where Irving, surrounded by empty white chairs, chose one chair in center stage to dance around and on top of.  With empty chairs all around, I expected other dancers to come on stage at any moment, but Irving managed to keep my attention throughout, all on her own. As Irving slowly and tentatively moved the center chair forward throughout the piece, I was drawn in.

To end, Executive Artistic Director Angela Harris gave us The ‘Movement’. An energetic balletic number, The ‘Movement’ was performed to a mix of recorded voice, music and Afrobeats that complimented the attractive ochre costumes of the dancers. With moments of sassy walking across stage mixed with technical ballet movement, this number was interesting and fun. The dancers executed the steps well, however more life in their faces would have added to the cheekiness of the piece and brought it alive.

Top photo: Kennesaw State University students perform Contra Moves. Photo by Richard Calmes

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