After seeing Hannah Kahn Dance Company’s shows over the years, there are things I’ve come to expect: lyrical movement, athletic artistry, abstraction, and at least one work that’s completely out of left field and delightful as hell to watch. Closing In, performed October 27th and 28th of 2018 at Cleo Parker Robinson Theater, was no exception.
The evening highlighted Kahn’s poetic yet highly structured choreography. The program’s eponymous work featured fluid movements further exaggerated by the flowing costuming. The short solos gave each dancer a moment to shine including a duet between Kimberley Chmielewski and Joshua Dwyre. The work highlights desire and aspiration as the dancers reached and kicked out, attempting to stretch their bodies beyond physical limits. An especially visceral section had the dancers crawling and rolling over each other before ending in a group fetal position.
Kahn addressed the audience after the first piece to tee up the premiere of “Juxtaposition,” a work she described as being composed of long movement phrases with geometric structures similar to a box, set to music by University of Colorado Christophersen Composition Fellow Daniel Kellogg. Five dancers performed, with four of them making the box. The soloist completed the phrase, deepening the journey, before all five came together at the end. Kahn says that, as a product of a family of professors, the work is a “window into abstraction.” With the dancers outfitted in retro swimsuit-like leotards against a bright blue background, the setting called to mind a beach or pool.
The preface talk aided immensely in identifying the physical structures and patterns the dancers made on stage; it made me want more insight into the rest of the works. Even as a regular attendee in a variety of arts (music, visual arts, writing, dance, theater) I always appreciate a little insight into the process or meaning behind a work. In order for the arts– and especially dance– to maintain and expand its audience, it must be accessible and engaging. Kahn’s preface avoided “art speak” and instead communicated plainly and directly to the audience. I’d like to see this integrated into future shows and/or programs to help the audience understand the impetus behind a work, especially when it is abstract and cerebral.
“Go for Broke” evoked the gravity of a Mark Rothko painting in its use of color, form, and composition, eliciting a provocative emotional response that was both sultry and powerful. The dancers in red slip dresses moved even after the lights go down.
“Take It All In” featured music by local singer/songwriter Zach Heckendorf that was like a mashup of John Mayer and Jack Johnson. Set to this playful music and dressed in tropical prints, the dancers had a ton of fun with the acrobatic, sassy, and energetic movements throughout a three-song set. I applaud Hannah Kahn’s inclusion of local musicians like Kellogg and Heckendorf and hope this trend continues in the future.
As mentioned earlier, there is always one piece in a Hannah Kahn performance that seems to come from an alternate reality. In Closing In, “Orchid” held this honor. The music included sounds of bubbling liquid as if from a mad scientist’s ab in addition to intermittent gongs. Dressed in shiny and billowy silver pants and tight, pastel tank tops, the dancers looked like genies. The Asian references to gongs and yogic movements combined with the spacey, futuristic, scientific sounds and costumes created a wild ride full of surprises for the audience. As Christopher Page-Sanders began the piece I thought, “Where have you been this whole time?!” so precise and all-in were his movements. I could feel his energy shooting out of each finger and toe as he moved across the stage.
“Excerpts from Constellations” featured music at times similar to Klezmer, American square dance, didgeridoo, and even Irish step, accompanying long-flowing movements by dancers in sleek black velour leotards with diagonal stripes across their chests. Danielle Beeman lights up the stage like a firecracker with her seemingly boundless energy.
The final piece, “Yonder,” showcases again Hannah Kahn’s lyrical, poetic movement, set to a fiddle. The white gauzy costumes call to mind idyllic prairies. The work featured nearly the entire company. Page-Sanders and Beeman’s duet especially highlighted the physicality of Kahn’s choreography with numerous and challenging lifts.
“Closing In” showcased Kahn’s forty-five year history of creativity in movement. It highlighted her range and diversity as well as her foundational strengths in abstraction, lyricism, and structure. Denver is lucky to call Kahn one of its own.
Deanne Gertner: A Colorado native, Deanne Gertner is a graduate from Regis University and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She currently sits on the board of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and was previously involved with CultureHaus, the Denver Art Museum’s young professionals’ group. Her writing has appeared in DailyServing, Quaint Magazine, and Scintilla. She is currently at work on a collection of essays about family dynamics in addition to editing a newspaper/zine about happiness for Denver Theatre District’s Happy City project with U.K. artist Stuart Semple.