by: Susan Lenz
Waiting for the curtain to rise in the Koger Center on Thursday, November 16th meant looking around an audience full of USC dance appreciation students consulting their programs and scribbling in their notebooks before Artistic Director Susan Anderson announced a fund-raising drive and a student scholarship award. She didn't have to make an announcement about cell phone and LED devices. This audience already knew performance etiquette. They probably also knew that the program was going to be an exercise in comparisons. The four works presented were all so different from one another.
The diversity began with George Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Not every ballet company can present a Balanchine work. It's strictly copyrighted and can only be performed by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust. Former New York City Ballet soloist Stacey Calvert meets their exacting standards and did an excellent job of staging the work, a piece which sends twenty-four women soaring across the stage in the wild abandonment to be expected from a night straight out of medieval German folklore. “Walpurgis Night” is the witch Sabbath on the eve of May Day. Senior dance performance major Lydia Sanders was beautifully partnered with guest dancer Bo Busby, a principal dancer with Columbia City Ballet.
The quick pace and flowing locks of hair gave way to a darkened, foreboding stage with three columns of black curtains in the premiere of Resilience, choreographed by guest artist Miriam Barbosa. Unfortunately, this minimal but visually impressive set was not effectively used as it could have been, and the dancers did not fully embrace the visceral contractions and releases expected when viewing work strongly associated with Martha Graham techniques.
Black Gazing, however, lived up to the iconic songs and music of Nina Simone. Choreographed by Thaddeus Davis with his own cast of dancers, the work was utterly compelling as the dancers comfortably expressed both beauty and pain, as well as chronicling changing relationships. The projected visual images would have been more effective, though, if the bright bulb hadn't been aimed directly in my eyes.
The evening ended with Suite of Old American Dances choreographed by Heather Stokes and accompanied by the USC Symphonic Winds under the direction of Cormac Cannon. It is always a treat to witness the collaboration of dancers and live musicians, especially when the melodies are so upbeat and delightful. A romantic interlude between two of the performers meandered through popular 1920s-era dances, including ragtime, the cake walk, a western one-step, the schottische, and a dreamy waltz. The cast looked very happy throughout and the applause showed just how much the audience approved.
When leaving the auditorium, I asked a dance appreciation student if she enjoyed the class and the evening's show. Her answer was totally positive. It is clear that Susan Anderson and the USC Dance program are bringing a high level of performance to Columbia. While it is too late to see the Fall Concert, it is not too late to experience the diversity and quality of these upcoming USC Dance opportunities:
December 5 - 8 Student Choreography Showcase at Drayton Hall Theatre
February 21 - 24 USC Dance Company's Spring Concert at Drayton Hall Theatre
March 2 - 4 The Bernstein Mass at the Koger Center
April 15 Ballet Starts of New York Gala Performance at the Koger Center
April 27 - 28 Student Choreography Showcase at Drayton Hall Theatre
May 18 - 19 USC Dance Conservatory Spring Concert at Drayton Hall Theatre
For more information on these upcoming events and the USC Dance Program, please visit .