Sunday, February 3, 2013

A night of intensity, sprinkled with humor

I reviewed a dance performance at Beloit College, so the New York Times would be an inappropriate target publication. I wrote this aiming for something more like the Beloit Daily News, the town's paper.

Maggie Kane

It opens with a group of women staring at a single dancer near the front of the stage. They tap their hands and feet with a sense of urgency, shoving each other when they get too close. The dancers’ faces dramatically express judgment and apprehension as they fight for attention.

The theme of competition knits together the dances at “Chelonia,” Beloit College’s annual spring semester dance program. Though the pieces are choreographed by different students, faculty members and guests, they flow seamlessly into one another.

The standout moments, though, come during two pieces that depart from this theme. A duet by senior Mia Alcorn portrays a relationship gone wrong in an a capella piece that is so synchronized it is hard to notice the lack of music.

Senior dancers Nora Anderson and Michael Kreiser have perfect chemistry. He seems to dance through her while she follows him around with wide eyes, begging silently for attention. Their everyday attire — a sundress, and a dress shirt and pants — grounds the act in reality while red lighting suggests otherworldly intimacy.

The emotion in Anderson’s voice at the end as she cries out, “Please, listen to me,” cues dark blue lighting, sadness. Their bodies flop, defeated.

A solo by junior Santiago Quintana choreographed by faculty member Gina T’ai is equally outstanding, although lighter. Quintana pushes himself across the width of the stage on a pile of gym mats, never stepping on the floor. He wears a frilly white skirt, which is as much a part of the dance as is his body.

Quintana seems like a six year old playing dress up in his room. A spotlight trained on him hints at visions of grandeur; it cuts out only once when the screen at the back of the stage turns teal and his silhouette is accentuated. In this moment, he does exaggerated shadow puppets with his hands.

It is a humorous moment in a lineup that has a lot of intensity. Group dances with four to nine people dominate the show. The dancers are well trained and highly skilled, giving professionalism to a student performance.

The show ends on an unexpected note, with a large group number set to a mix of Chopin and top-40 hip-hop music. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the program, but it is a fun way to remind the audience that this is, indeed, a college show.


  1. Maggie,

    I love how you opened this review. You immediately took me to the stage and let me "see" what you saw. I felt as if I, too, were there watching the performance.

    It's clear you know a lot about the medium. Your attention to detail and the elements of the show that you pull out for readers allude to your expertise. I wouldn't have necessarily known to pay attention to shadows, mats, or the lack of music.

    I think the last sentence of your review is important. Distinguishing the "professionalism" of the medium is crucial when trying to place
    a show among other performances. It's impossible to hold a college or high school performance up to the same standards as a show at ABC, for example.

    Well done.

  2. I love your style in this review. The beginning is so detailed and descriptive, and that quality continues throughout the piece, really allowing me to imagine the performance as if I saw it with you. You address many aspects of the show, showing just enough to make me want to see it.