From students exploring their powers to established artists venturing in new directions, the spring dance season offers two highlights this weekend, with more coming up soon. This Thursday, April 4, at the Van Duzer, the HSU department of theater, film and dance presents On the Edge of Your Feet, an evening of contemporary dances. The university's dance program has drawn strong performers, many driven to choreograph, and in this performance they inhabit the spaces in dancing where the personal goes public.
Coached by Sharon Butcher, director of the dance studies program, choreography students have created works about personal growth and social issues. Among them are In the Void by Carrie Walpole, Best Kept Secret by Kelly-May Rogers, Pieces on the Floor by Dani Gutierrez, and, most intriguing, Mirror Mirror on my Thighs, an unflinching self-examination of body image by Keili Simmons Marble. The cast of this show is a young, athletic group, capable of elevated leg extensions, buoyant jumps and leaps, partnered lifts and rhythmic unisons. The dancers glide toward each other, outward toward the audience and inward toward themselves.
Butcher's students always have a handle on the core components of composition, becoming adept at repetition and variations, the folding and unfolding of groupings, and a clarity of intention that brings completeness to the shows she directs. These students have also been fortunate to have Laura Muñoz of the Dell' Arte faculty as guest teacher this past semester. Her earthy approach to dance training, all about the bones releasing into the earth, will inform much of the performing we see, most directly in her own new quintet, Living with Thirst.
During an audition open to all students, not just dance majors, Muñoz chose "five very different dancers, short, tall, bigger, smaller. I wasn't looking for something homogeneous." The performers look like the antithesis of a ballet corps, yet become a unified ensemble. On the Edge of Your Feet, Thursdays-Saturdays, April 4-6 and 11-13 at 7:30 p.m., with one matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday April 7, in the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets available at the HSU Box Office, (707) 826-3928, or at the door.
Leslie Castellano-Howabauten's performance lab Synapsis has achieved a reputation for experimental dance. Now she is bringing a San Francisco show to Eureka for one night on Saturday, April 6, giving audiences a chance to see some of the latest in performance art. The visit comes because Castellano-Howabauten has been traveling to the city to work as a member of Miriam Wolodarski's San Francisco-based company, Sense Object.
Sense Object's Of Limb and Language, which recently premiered at CounterPULSE in San Francisco, is described by Wolodarski as "a communicational tragicomedy, a brutal love affair between semantics and somatics." It explores how we find ways to distance ourselves from the violent events we read about or hear on the news. The dancers are trained in contact improvisation, with movements initiated where bodies touch, and dancers move on top of and beneath each other, casting one another into the air, at times nurturing and at times aggressive. You can expect that collaborative spirit to emerge in Of Limb and Language, whose script and choreography were developed by the cast.
The evening opens with The Right to Tell Your Story, directed by Kayleigh Stack, a multimedia project using movement, graphics and audio.
Of Limb and Language, Saturday, April 6, 8 p.m., Synapsis, 47 West Third St., Eureka. $8- $15, sliding scale, no one turned away. Synapsis is a small space and reservations are highly recommended. (707) 616-3104.
An evening of family entertainment and carnival mayhem brings stilt-walkers, aerial artists and giant puppets to Arcata in Cirque de Shawazee, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the Arcata Playhouse, 1251 Ninth St. The evening benefits the Playhouse's youth program. Adults $15, kids $10. (707) 616-3104.
When local dance teacher Stephanie Carter wanted to free her own inner beast, the dances inside her that were crying out to be choreographed, she figured others had their own inner artistic beasts too. She and Shoshanna of Redwood Raks put out that call to choreographers. The result spans jazz, Middle Eastern and modern dance in two performances. Free the Beasts, at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 4, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Redwood Raks World Dance Center, Ninth and L streets in Arcata. Tickets $10 at the door. www.humboldtdancer.net.
The quintessential modern dance company, led by the quintessential choreographer Paul Taylor, returns to CenterArts with an evening length program. Paul Taylor Dance Company, Tuesday May 7, 8 p.m., the Van Duzer Theater on the HSU campus. Tickets adult $45, child $25, HSU student $15. Humboldt.edu/centerarts, (707) 826-3928
And that's only through the beginning of May. There will be more dance to come as spring unfurls.