Saturday, August 6th 2016 was a perfect summer night for the Denver urban weller to venture out to see a show. At the Cleo Parker Robinson Theater on Park Ave. W., Anna Claire Brunelli, of Hannah Kahn Dance Company, presented Choreographers Collective to a nearly full capacity audience as the seven o’clock sun streamed through the heavy curtains of the old church, now popular dance concert venue. When the house opened, the theater was warm and quiet, but buzzed louder as acquainted audience members entered and sought out familiar faces to greet. Anna Claire Brunelli stepped through the stage curtain and introduced herself as Claire in a sweet and strong voice.
She announced that this is her 3rd year presenting Choreographers Collective in an effort to create a community in which choreographers have a space to show works outside of a dance company setting. The members of the collective may or may not dance full time, and they are interested in extra projects whether that looks like a 3 minute piece or a 10 minute suite of vignettes. I regret that there was not more biographical information available about the choreographers and dancers, but the show was well crafted, inspiring, and aroused curiosity about these beautiful, seasoned artists.
The opening piece was a cute and playful quartet. Vive Le Swing, choreographed by Bailey Harper, another Hannah Kahn Dance Company member, was a colorful contemporary take on swing with long, bright skirts and a fun and mellow vibe. The piece was simple, clean, and the perfect way to begin the evening.
Lexy Silva, who dances for Kim Robards Dance and teaches at State of the Arts Dance Studio, choreographed the 2nd piece entitled Impetu, a duet with live music. As the musician set up, the two dancers struck a pose on the dark stage in the warm theater in short burgundy dresses. As the piece began, rose colored light poured onto their skin and created a periwinkle hue on the cyclorama. The linear modern dance felt like a daydream; the music was like a drawl in ¾ time. Impetu continued the opening playful feeling and ended in an angular embrace.
Sumi Clements, is a travelling freelance dancer, choreographer, and teacher as well as co-founder, artistic director, and choreographer for New York based Summation Dance Company. She changed the pace of the show with her solo work, Singular. Dressed in a simple black camisole jumper, Sumi formed shapes that challenged the linear lines of classical techniques and created stillness that challenged time. The movement had the dancer bound yet travelling, without gravity and spun in space yet rooted and “resisting fixity” as though dancing Butoh; she was lost and found all at the same time, at moments, animalistic. This was a flawless and wildly interesting piece.
Chatter, the 4th piece, danced right before a 10 minute intermission, was choreographed by Kimberly Chmielewski of Hannah Kahn Dance Company. It was a 5 part suite danced by 5 dancers. A seamless and technical pas de deux was followed by a vignette with hot side lighting and a sultry, minimal feel. The gestural solo adagio that followed began with whispers and a look that seemed to say someone is missing. This gorgeous, long dancer brought hyper awareness to the negative space around her. Although the dancers were dressed all in black, part 4 was black and white, a detached cannon. The suite came to a close to a piano piece.
After intermission, Kimberly Chmielewski and Bailey Harper danced Kimberly’s choreography in Ebb and Flow, a girlish exploration of personal space and thematic phrases. The duet was crafted with building tension and strength and a return to the central movement theme.
Light in the Dark, a trio, followed, choreographed by Jessica Pittman, of La Roche Academy of Dance and Denver Dance Starz. It was a contemporary dance with breath and circular scooping and contracting. The dancers wore pedestrian summer clothing and seemed to be supporting and acknowledging each other through their movement.
Kelsey Kempfer dances with several local dance companies and teaches at Grace Studios School of Dance. Her solo, Ex-Manifest was aggressive and remissive in alternating moments using all of the walls of the stage. Kelsey offered private and personal tableaus that we were allowed to see. She found a place where the sharpness of hip hop met the patterns of modern dance and managed to remove the audience aspect and reveal the female psyche.
Invoking the Wild Feminine, a large group piece danced all in white, closed the show with a powerful statement of feminine power. Choreographer Anna Claire Brunelli created a precise and at times possessed meditation that became sensual and free. It was metronomic and flawless in a way that created numbness and excited self-acceptance. Invoking the Wild Feminine was like a vision quest for dancers and brought closure to the beauty that graced the stage that night.
Choreographers Collective at the Cleo Parker Robinson Theater was time well spent, a dance concert for dancers. I invite you to find and follow these artists on social media as I did so that their magic is not kept secret but rather seen and experienced again and again.
Shelly Chapple Clements was raised in rural Pennsylvania, in Amish Country. She was drawn to the city of Pittsburgh through dance at the young age of 9 and never looked back. Her dance education took her from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, to the National Academy of Arts in Champagne-Urbana, IL, Shelly returned east and graduated from the renowned Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts after which she enjoyed a professional modern dance career in San Francisco from 1990-2002. She is a master instructor for young dancers and currently teaches ballet in Littleton and Highlands Ranch and is the Artistic Director of Youth Programs for DAMAGEDANCE. Shelly has been a Colorado resident since 2002 and holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Spanish Interpretation and Translation, Hispanic Literature, and Theatre Dance from Colorado Mesa University, and attended the master’s program at the School of Education and Human Development at University of Colorado Denver. Her passion for writing gives voice to the dancer who speaks not on the stage.