There comes a time in every career when the desire for something new strikes. For choreographer and company director Hannah Kahn, trying something new for her latest project certainly yielded successful results. The something new? Working with long-time friend and colleague Maureen Breeze to create a collaborative, theme-based show comprised of a series of site-specific performances and culminating in a theatrical production of the work.
The Hannah Kahn Dance Company and the Maureen Breeze Dance Theater teamed up to create There & Back Again…, a traveling show based on the concept of travel itself. Free performances occurred throughout the fall at local public transportation hubs: Denver International Airport, the Union Station Plaza and the Republic Plaza on the 16th Street Mall. On November 10 and 11, 2017, the show was performed onstage at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, to a full house of eager patrons.
Hannah Kahn and Maureen Breeze each took time to talk about a few of their pieces, particularly the creative process and the purpose of the movement. Kahn’s demonstration of a few of her movement phrases in Passing Through was met with enthusiastic applause. It was a nice balance, allowing the audience to understand some of what goes into creating a dance work, while also allowing room for them to interpret other pieces on their own.
The curtains opened to a line of airline passengers waiting patiently (and impatiently) for their turn to go through security. The show opener, Concourse A, immediately drew the audience in with humor and relatability, perfectly embodying the rushed and frantic feelings that an airport tends to create within its customers. Complete with overhead announcements for upcoming flights and late passengers, these frenzied interludes were placed between short vignettes that told the stories of airline goers, such as a couple saying goodbye to each other and a group of flight attendants going about their workday. Concourse A, with choreography by Maureen Breeze, was magnetizing, but felt almost too short for the subject matter.
The second piece in the show was entitled Impulsion and was choreographed by Hannah Kahn. The trio of dancers were clad in bright yellows and golds, making their spritely movements shimmer with vivacity. The choreography was intricate, playful, and, as Kahn implied in her introduction to the piece, it “thrummed” with the constancy of life. For a moment, the trio became a solo, which Brittany Nunes danced with a calming effortlessness and fluidity. Sojourn, a new work by Breeze was performed next. This piece was comprised of three sections which captured the feeling of leaving a place and people you know, the process of moving to a new place, and then the assimilation into a new community. The costumes changed throughout the piece, as though also on a journey, mirroring the concept of the work.
Wheeling completed the first half of the show. Choreographed by Kahn, this piece was a good illustration of her penchant for using music to inspire movement. Watching this piece was akin to watching the music, in that one could “see” the music through the movement. Toward the beginning of the piece, the four dancers moved separately, yet together, in a manner that portrayed the ebb and flow, rise and fall, of life. The dancers became more connected as the piece moved on, ending as a group with all four linked together. Breeze’s third piece of the evening, A Moment’s Glance, depicted the meeting of a man and woman in an elevator, gazing at each other shyly, but too afraid to introduce themselves. So they retreat into their minds and imagine what life could be like. Three duets between the two ensue. Danced beautifully by Kimberly Chmielewski and Joshua Dwyre, each duet was full of fantastic lifts and weight-sharing ventures. When it is time to exit the elevator, the audience is left hopeful that the “glance” turned into something more.
Kahn spoke about how her pieces relate to the travel theme in a more abstract way, such as the traffic patterns of bodies in the choreography and the movements themselves. In Passing Through, several of the movement phrases acknowledge both where the body is going in space and where it has been, mirroring the theme of the show. The title piece There & Back Again closed the show. A collaboration between Breeze and Kahn, this light-hearted flurry of duets, trios, quartets and colors displayed the dancers’ artistry and technique beautifully. It was refreshing to see the two work together to create something that challenged them both.
The dancers were all technically exceptional and outstanding performers; watching them dance together was truly satisfying. At the end of the night, the audience left the theatre feeling just how dance should make someone feel: uplifted and inspired.
To keep up to date with the Hannah Kahn Dance Company, visit their website at www.hannahkahndance.org.
Jessica Riggs is the Director of Life/Art Dance Ensemble, a 501(c)3 registered nonprofit dance company that focuses on artistic collaboration and making the arts more accessible. She possesses Bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Dietetics from Colorado State University, as well as a Masters degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. She also teaches dance classes at the Lakewood Cultural Center. In addition to Life/Art’s productions, Jessica’s choreography has been featured in Ascential Dance Theatre’s Assemblage, Transition Theater’s Kali Creates Fate, GAMMA-UT’s New Music Festival at the University of Texas, the Dairy Arts Center’s Women in Classical Music Soundscape concert, and in Prague at the American Music Festival in collaboration with Stratus Chamber Orchestra.