Review: GSA Winter Concert

Music is so powerful.

It has such a strong effect on me, physically and emotionally. I’m not sure whether my passion for music comes from so much time spent dancing, or if I love spending so much time dancing because of my passion for music. In either case, for me, music and dance go hand in hand. It is certainly possible to have one without the other, but when those two elements come together, something marvelous happens. The Governor’s School for the Arts‘ Winter Concert, which took place this past weekend, had such outstanding music; with styles ranging from the unpredictable Stravinsky, to the smooth Patsy Cline, each dance piece was a fantastic integration of music and movement.

The show opened with “Tether Light, Tether Dark,” choreographed by Todd Rosenlieb, with music by Stravinsky. The music intrigued me with its combination of wistful and playful moments, the choreography accentuating those qualities well. The six dancers each had a white or black balloon throughout the piece, holding it in their hands either by its ribbon, or by its knot. In one section, the students danced with the balloons held with their toes. The students made the trickiness of dancing with a prop look easy.

The dancers wore pointe shoes in both of the ballet selections, but the pieces were quite contrasting in style and mood. “A Waltz Remembered” had classical ballet choreography, romantic-style tutus, and a lovely, light energy. I found myself swaying in my seat as the dancers balancéd and temps levéd around the stage. “In the Garden of Souls” was a contemporary ballet piece with a more solemn undertone. The ladies’ costumes were short, straight dresses that were reminiscent of ’60s style; the movements were slow and deliberate, which was quite different from the flowing, free movements of the waltz.

The remainder of the program was a collection of five modern dance pieces. The highlight for me was “Reflections in the Funhouse Mirrors,” choreographed by Janelle Spruill. I was enthralled from beginning to end: the dark red opening sequence in silhouette; the blue section with sharp arm movements and flexed wrists; the bright moments when the stage was packed with dancers moving in powerful unity; and the pulsing and dynamic music. This performance also featured student choreography; “Disconverging Rhythms” by GSA student Jacob Spallino was full of sweeping gestures, jumps, and bursts of movements. This piece, whose music was a combination of string instruments and a hip-hop beat, had many strong moments.

The show closed with “inCline,” a theatrical dance using excerpts of Patsy Cline songs. I had seen this piece performed by the ODU Dance Department, and was happy to have the chance to see it again. It is a nostalgic, romantic piece with lots of expression and character.

A few of the GSA students also attend the ballet school where I teach, so I of course was thrilled to see familiar faces on stage. All of the GSA students certainly displayed their performance ability; their stage presence and confidence were consistent throughout. The dancers may be different ages, and at different points in their technical training, but they shared the stage magnificently.

The program’s variety showcased the department and students’ versatility. The musical selections in this program provided such a wonderful foundation for the dance choreography. This show brought music and movement together, producing something great.

This article was originally published on AltDaily in January of 2011.

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