Growing, a passion for dance

Growing, a passion for dance
June 9, 2017 Sutton Anker
Photo by Eli Akerstein. Image courtesy of Davis Contemporary Dance Company.

Photo by Eli Akerstein. Image courtesy of Davis Contemporary Dance Company.

Davis Contemporary Dance Company (Davis Dance) performed A Summer Night of Dance at the Elaine Wolf Theatre, a quaint local community center, for its last leg of the company’s ninth season tour. The audience consisted of mainly friends and family of the performers. The three pieces performed by Davis Dance were a repertoire exposing the company’s passion for dance and potential for growth.

Overall, the pieces were simplistic in movement, yet nicely executed. The movement was rooted in a contemporary jazz technique, which was appreciated; and it was evident this style is the dancers’ comfort zone. Davis Dance’s three works performed all varied in costumes, concept and music. The technical ability varied amongst the dancers and the underlying message or theme was at times blurry in its delivery.

The first piece titled, Laura’s Story, seemed to be the most rehearsed of all pieces performed by the company. The dancers appeared competent in the movement vocabulary, which had clear motifs. However, the piece seemed to lack in complex movement concepts. The partnering that occurred was strong technically, yet seemed overly familiar. Transitions between vignettes paused pulling the audience away from the story. There were captivating, beautiful moments when the solo female dancers appeared on-stage. They were technically sound and performed with poise. With this ability in a dance company, the choreography could reach to further bounds adding dimension and challenging the dancers. It seems this type of consideration would unleash the potential visible on the surface, but still captured within.

Davis Dance collaborated with two poets in the second work, Listen, which was a bold and somewhat unsettling piece. The enthusiastic performance by both poets was robust and admired; they captivated the audience immediately. There was a solo musician placed stage right who played beautifully and responded well to what was taking place next to him. From a performance perspective, the facial expressions and overall choreography appeared cacophonous with the spoken word. The all female cast danced on stage in yellow lighting, wearing informal spring dresses to words that were depicting numerous social and political movements. It caused one to wonder as to the conclusions and correlations given the social movements of our time and the messages associated. It was unclear if the choreography, costuming, lighting and casting were rebelling against the spoken word or in agreement. I applaud the company director in making the bold choice, but that choice needed to be more thoroughly thought out and the presentation of the statement more clear and unequivocal.

Photo by Eli Akerstein. Image courtesy of Davis Contemporary Dance Company.

Photo by Eli Akerstein. Image courtesy of Davis Contemporary Dance Company.

The guest performance in the evening’s production was Moraporvida Contemporary Dance who presented two works. The first piece, Landing Place, was a small cast with a captivating performance that shook the energy of the evening. The music, lighting and costuming complimented the choreography, which in itself explored intricacies of human movement, suspension and patterning. This piece appeared to be well-rehearsed and the tone understood from the performers. Moraporvida’s second work, Butterfly, was a light duet in regards to movement, lighting and costuming. The male and female partners danced under a blue tone light, wearing royal blue colored costumes. This piece was lyrical and the two dancers confidence appeared unequal. Moraporvida’s overall concept manifested itself through the movement, which was strongly supported by a technically strong cast.

In spite of suggesting for more complex and fully thought out concepts in movement from Davis Dance, costuming should be discussed. The costumes in the first two pieces by Davis Dance resembled that of a high school dance competition; girls in skirts and crop tops and spring dresses that could be found at a local department store. This type of costuming, along with single colored lighting effects, appeared to challenge the notion of professionalism within the company.

It is apparent by their dancers conveying passion and excitement in every piece Davis Dance has great potential and drive. Davis Dance’s mission is advantageous for the Denver dance community by exposing dance to various audiences and welcoming a variety of artists to the stage. To meet this excitement and passion on stage, it is advised that the printed materials provided to audience members are more thoroughly revised. Insight on the company’s directors provided a greater understanding of the company’s history and growth, adding to the appreciation of this evening’s performance. By having a more concise and clear wording in their mission statement this could perhaps drive their mission forward within the Denver dance community, enhancing the company’s status and exposing their well done, passionate work to a larger audience.

The final work, Mac’s Place, appeared most fitting for the company in regards to style and performance ability. Their desire to act and maintain the embodiment of a particular character throughout the piece is applauded. The collaboration with a live band and singers continued to support the company’s mission and added a more visceral experience to the work. The use of the limited space and consideration of entrances and exits was done well. By allowing for this piece to have more time in the studio with consideration to the overall message and delivery of concept to be more fully thought out, this piece could become a full evening lengths work.

It was evident that the dancers in both companies were passionate for their art. They all showed effort and enthusiasm through their movement and performance desire. The small venue was an ideal setting for the company’s work as they continue to progress in concept and delivery. Davis Dance has a strong platform to build upon. Continuing to challenge their dancers, enhance the delivery of the message and continuing to develop a strong contemporary jazz repertoire, the company has great potential to reach the professional world-class status.

Sutton Anker currently lives in her hometown of Littleton, Colorado. Her love of dance took root at a young age when she began dancing at a local studio. This passion grew and carried through into college and beyond. Sutton earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance Science from the University of Wyoming, followed by a Master’s of Science in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.  Her technical training is in ballet, release technique, Horton, modern, tap, jazz, vertical dance, hip-hop, pointe, and functional fitness. Throughout her B.F.A. at UW, Sutton performed in various productions including From the Ashes: A Cinderella Ballet, Duet and Power/Full (a Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company production), The Nutcracker, Boxed Set, and Six Songs from Ellis.

Sutton has a keen interest in motor learning, motor development, and pedagogical techniques, taking several kinesiology classes in her undergraduate and graduate programs. Sutton has presented at several dance science conferences, including the 2010 Performing Arts Medical Association Conference (Specific Stretching for Individual Needs), the 2013 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference (Effect of Mirrors on Dancers’ Ability to Learn Movement), and the 2016 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference in Hong Kong (Master’s thesis –  An Investigation of the Pedagogical Rationales for Current Mirror Use in a Ballet Technique Class).

Sutton currently works at Foothills Park and Recreation District in Children’s Programs. She has a passion for empowering kids’ creativity and educating youth on physical and mental health. Sutton continues to engage in dance by teaching at local studios, participating in classes and workshops, volunteering with Presenting Denver, and pursuing her research interests.