Whitney Waugh Dance has burst onto the Denver dance scene this year as a force to be reckoned with. Our Beckoning: Movement Anthologies, Vol. 1 is the second full-length production the company has done. Held at Colorado Conservatory of Dance in Broomfield on December 9 and 10, 2018, Our Beckoning was presented in partnership with Control Group Productions. The program included seven pieces, all different in concept, yet related in that they all addressed issues of human struggle: struggles within relationships, struggles within the self, struggles with external forces.
The performance began with a single dancer exploding on to the stage as though pushed by an unseen hand. As Coup de Grâce continued, it became apparent that indeed there was a force, sometimes visible, behind this desperate movement, a thematic movement that reappeared throughout the piece. Moments of obvious despair and anguish alternating with lifts and weight-sharing ventures served to highlight the support systems that develop to help a person through a trying time. The second piece, entitled Everything I Never Meant to Tell You, was choreographed by Jennifer Hightower and brilliantly performed by Whitney Waugh and Rachel Brady. The dancers flowed in and out of gestural phrases, lifts, and big sweeping movements. The costuming was simple: flowing white pants and tops that shunted the focus back to the movement itself. Thus the apparent premise of the piece, the conflicting desire to push someone away while simultaneously in absolute need of them, was immediately evident.
Into the Depths, a powerful solo performed by Jennifer Hightower, seemed to be a commentary on the internal frustration of the silenced individual, perhaps one oppressed by societal norms. The piece began and ended with Hightower dipping her long hair into a bucket of water; and though there was no further interaction with the water, it remained a focal point throughout. The first piece after intermission was a duet of comedic relief, honed in on the subject of sibling rivalry or a similar relationship. The Thin Line Between opened on two dancers, one with obvious admiration for and desire to be just like the other. This admiration eventually dissolved into physical arguments, which dancers Arielle Dykstra and Tara Kelso effortlessly transformed into moments of weight sharing.
She Pours featured a backlit solitary mover who managed to fill the space while standing in one place. Choreographed and performed by Rachel Brady, this piece began with a series of gestural movements that got progressively faster before breaking out into large juicy movements as she circled the space. A quartet of dancers took the stage for Veil of Inclusion. At first, the dancers all danced together on stools facing each other before separating into two duets. The duets moved from light spot to light spot before ending in another quartet, sans stools. The dancers wore fencing-like masks, further emphasizing the anonymity inherent in the piece.
The show closed with Periphery, the perfect full-cast piece to end the night with. Fraught with satisfying moments of separated togetherness, groups of dancers danced together, at first in duets, then with simultaneous movements, though separated by space. The makeup of the groups and duets changed seamlessly over and over again, ebbing and flowing toward the denouement. The piece ended with all the dancers moving slowly away from a single dancer.
The entire show was an impressive mix of big, sweeping movements and meaningful gestures created primarily by Artistic Director Whitney Waugh. Adding to the power of the movement was the keen lighting design by Patrick Mueller of Control Group Productions. He did more than simply light the dancers; his designs and flawless timing helped to further convey the concepts of the pieces.
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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 Bachelors 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.