CSULB dancers ‘penetrate the minds of the audience’

Last weekend, the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater welcomed full-house audiences to view the Masters of Fine Arts “Lightness and Dark” thesis performances. 

The show featured choreography by graduate dance artists Summer Brown, Jay Carlon, Jessica Kondrath and Brian Moe. 

All of the pieces in the performance leaned more toward interpretive-style dance and ranged from 10 to 15 minutes in length. Each number comprised especially unique movements that symbolized the storyline or idea intended by the choreographers.

Brian Moe opened the night with “Heaven.” Nine vocalists who sang in altering major and minor harmonies live on stage accompanied eight dancers to perform in “Requiem in F Minor.”

The dancers — dressed in pajama-like pants and crew-neck T-shirts — walked aimlessly around the stage at first, looking at their hands, arms and each other in fascination, as if they were seeing everything for the first time. The dance depicted what seemed like mood swings in the theme, moving from slow, fascinating portrayals, to fast and frantic movements. The piece concluded with an intimate and romantic duet by dancers Kate Andrews and Kyle Hadenfeldt.

“Flight or Plight,” the second piece, “explored the manner in which symbols, images and character relationships from the classic American play, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams, expose a desire to attain the unattainable,” as described in the performance program. Seven dancers abstractly illustrated this theme through delusional-like actions. These include the sporadic reading of unknown passages that opened the piece and the random shouting of numbers with which the dancers ended the piece.

“12:01” seized the audience’s attention once again after intermission with its gothic-inspired choreography. This was the smallest piece, with only three female dancers in the spotlight dressed in black, lace-corseted tops. According to the program, choreographer Summer Brown intended to “use the choreographic process as a way to investigate performance training methodology.”

Upon the opening staccato pick of the violin string — also performed live — the three dancers wobbled unsteadily backward on their tiptoes. The dancers’ movements changed with each transformation between melodically tied to staccato plucked notes, but the piece was consistently tense. 

The last dance fit under the “lightness” category of the performance thesis. “The Art of Breathing” had a more majestic and royal feel, partly due to the J.S. Bach cantata the dancing complied to. The 16 dancers in royal blue leotards with their hair up and away from their face looked elegant. This was the least interpretive performance of the night, consisting of a balanced blend between ballet and modern movements.

Throughout the performances, the audience seemed to remain more hushed than in previous showcases. However, this can largely be attributed to the interpretive nature of the choreography. Each number succeeded in penetrating the minds of the audience, rather than merely grazing the surface of their abstract thinking capabilities. 

The MFA concert is held each semester on the Cal State Long Beach campus and premieres CSULB graduate dance artists’ choreography.

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