Dance Charlotte! left in the lurch

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There was nothing wrong with Dance Charlotte! 2010 that a few more dancers and a few more dances couldn’t have cured. Staged at Booth Playhouse last Friday and Saturday, the seven-piece program clocked in at a shade over 55 minutes, including bows and pauses. A 20-minute intermission helped stretch the program but not the personnel, which reached a mere 13 for the entire evening.

No, it wasn’t planned that way. An insert in the playbill diagnosed one key problem. The staging of Martha Graham’s Maple Leaf Rag by the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company was canceled without explanation – not even at SCCDC’s website, which is still hyping the performance. Sporting Calvin Klein costumes to accent the Graham choreography and Scott Joplin music, the playbill description of Rag listed 18 dancers and certainly would have provided the festival with a flashier climax.

Best of the rest was E.E.Motion’s presentation of E.E.volution, set to the music of John Allemeier by choreographer E.E. Balcos. Joining Balcos in this elegant piece were two stalwarts of the local scene, Tai Dorn and Audrey Ipapo Baran. Honors for the back-to-the-drawing-board prize went to dancer/choreographers Mickje Geller and Sybil Huskey, who set Just Here Body to the recorded sound of a car engine, an idea that must have looked better in theory than in practice.

There were no fewer than three solo dances in the program, Ashley Suttlar Martin dancing to her own In the Soul, Tracie Foster Chan dancing to Jan Van Dyke’s Luna, and Young Sun Lee dancing to an untitled work of her own. Luna was handicapped by the saccharine noodling of New Age pianist George Winston, so I preferred the Martin piece and its griot flavorings. Of the three soloists, Lee may be the talent to watch. Chan was actually showcased to better advantage in a work of her own, Spoon, a duo piece with Alex Smith to the music of Zafer Tawil.

Set to music by Cyril Morin, with text by Edgar Allan Poe performed by Amanda Rentschler, “Mesmeric Revelations” was surely the most tantalizing piece of the night. Excerpted from a full-length piece, “Revelations” didn’t really begin to reveal its true “Masque of the Red Death” context, though the dancing by Rentschler, Elizabeth Sturgis, and choreographers Caroline Calouche and Brian Winn was at a level very close to the E.E.Motion ensemble’s.

Common sense would seem to indicate that Dance Charlotte! was left in the lurch really, really, really late in the game, because the full Macabre Masque, from which “Mesmeric Revelations” was excerpted, saw its premiere in Gastonia just this past May. Calouche & Co., the producers of that piece, are also the producers of Dance Charlotte! Given more time to rehearse and mount additional segments of Masque, which has never been staged in Charlotte, Calouche & Co. would presumably have supplied Dance Charlotte! with the additional inventory it so conspicuously lacked.

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