Classic Made New

Classic Made New

Photo by Christopher Duggan. BODYTRAFFIC "02Joy". Image courtesy of Lakewood Cultural Center.
Photo by Christopher Duggan. BODYTRAFFIC “02Joy”. Image courtesy of Lakewood Cultural Center.

The Lakewood Cultural Center hosted LA-based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC on Saturday, February 16, 2019. The curtain rose on a hazy scene illuminated by white spotlights shining straight down from the rafters.  The first work of four to be presented that evening, Beyond the Edge of The Frame, aimed to position fashion and spectatorship in conversation with movement and imagination. The six dancers of the company were dressed in various fashionable articles of black or white, each one accessorized with a sheer black ribbon of fabric, tied over their eyes that sparkled as they turned beneath the spots. A spacious house beat drove their movement, escalating in urgency as the stage warmed from yellow side lights. Graceful, turned out, balletic movements merged with angular voguish attitude as the piece progressed. The music shifted, simplifying, as the stage rusted under orange lights. A ghastly narrative drifted into the soundscape, only some of the words ringing clear enough to distinguish. In its conclusion, only two dancers remained on the stage. One kept her eyes fixated on the other, who explored the range of motion of his joints, rolling and twisting through shoulder sockets until the music came to an abrupt halt met with stillness for reflection.

After a brief pause, the same six dancers returned to the stage for A Trick of the Light. The curtain again rose vertically to reveal two couples slow dancing, and a third male dancer moving in the same way but holding an imaginary partner. An eager female partner discovers him, trying to slink into the space he is holding, but his disinterest leads to a humorous exchange. The two swaying couples move upstage to shift the focus to the unlikely pair. He points his finger at her, and she bites it; a hilarious partnership ensuing as they continue to dance with his finger between her teeth. Meanwhile, upstage, the two couples have separated, and one of the male partners approaches the unlikely couple to cut in, delighting the audience when he scoops the other male dancer into his arms as they begin an exuberant waltz about the stage.  The dancers then gather at the edge of the stage as the music quiets. To everyone’s surprise, they begin a bit of spoken dialogue regarding a mysterious green flash of light that occurs just after the sun sets beneath the horizon. Clever stage design illustrates the flash, the dancers gasp in awe, and the fun continues. The dancers continually repeat a bizarre and amusing motif that involves a deep sniff of their own and others’ feet. As Sous le Ciel de Paris bubbles out of the speakers, one dancer discovers a rope on the floor, pulls it the entire length of the stage, and pulls and pulls, only to reappear on the other end of the rope. This piece is full of subtle, unexpected delights that entertain in a most wholesome way.

For the third piece, an excerpt of Fragile Dwellings, the tone shifts once more back to serious. Five spotlights are cast down onto the stage in a horizontal line. A male dancer dressed in all white walks through all of them; lofty angelic choir music reverberates through the auditorium. As the dancer begins more technical movements, more spotlights appear on the stage covering it entirely in spots.  More solos ensue, the patterns of the spots on the floor differing for each one. The dancers generally dance outside the spots, until the end when all four dancers return to the stage for a memorable final image of one female dancer arching into the arms of another, hanging in his arms suspended like a beautiful corpse, gazing upside down at the audience as darkness envelopes the stage.

The final piece of the night o2Joy is a joyful journey through classic jazz standards. The most thrilling section of this piece was danced to Ella Fitzgerald’s All of Me and featured one of the male dancers passionately lip-syncing the lyrics and the entire scat section of the song while delivering an extremely satisfying performance of flawlessly stylized and iconic jazz movements. Then, the company slides onto the stage in their socks, bracing for what is sure to be the “big finish” that concludes all true jazz routines. As the big band swells, they unexpectedly remain still, once more surprising the audience with a subtle choreographic choice. At last, they embark on an effortlessly fun, shoulder shifting, toe tapping, jazzy big finish. BODYTRAFFIC delivered a highly entertaining performance with movement inspired by the disciplines of ballet, hip hop, and jazz. The well balanced selection of pieces earned a standing ovation which seemed to suggest an invitation to come back to Denver again soon.

Maggie Ramseur is a long time dancer and teacher in the southwest Denver area. Her background includes training in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop dance styles. As a member of the CU Buff Gold Dance Team for the 2017 season, she performed and completed on a national stage. In addition to a long history with competition dance, Maggie has also studied dance in pop culture and the history of modern dance under the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She strives to remain active as a student, a teacher, and an advocate for dance in the community.