The Versatility Dance Festival made its premier in Colorado at Boulder’s Dairy Arts Center on January 12th. The festival was presented over two nights by T2 Dance Project, a non-profit under the direction of Erin Tunbridge. The first night featured dance films at the Grace Gamm Theater, while the second night featured live performances at the Gordon Gamm Theater of excerpted works from companies throughout the United States.
The performance night of the festival opened with Pool of Joy, a duet choreographed by Marika Brussel. The movements seem to feel comfortable to the dancers’ bodies. They beckon to each other, making invitations to play. BB2 (Boulder Ballet School’s most advanced students) take the stage next to perform Glass Animals. The dynamic formations in this contemporary piece each morph seamlessly into the next. Spotlights redefine space on the stage, allowing moments to arrive and pass in high contrast. Dancers appear beneath the spotlights while others are forgotten in darkness, offering brief phrases or constructing particular shapes.
Side lighting casts a mysterious glow on the stage, stretching shadows off to the right, as two dancers of the Andrews Movement Project begin to perform 1968.4 Miles of Vulnerability. Rushed, aggressive movement continually gives way to tender breaths. Two beings in tension, but not necessarily at odds, keep leaning into each other only to flinch away as soon as a moment seems to resolve. Briefly, the dancers coexist in unison, until one of them inevitably interrupts the bond.
Shirk by Ashleyliane Dance Company begins with a spoken word poem, the dancers dressed in rich turquoise. Multiple formations executing complimentary but separate movement phrases create a busy stage, but each tells a compelling story enriched by the presence of other movement. These formations seem to change in a kind of circular way. There are at least two phrases to watch at any given moment until the dancers fill the space on the stage and breathe in unison. They pause on the floor in superman position, their bodies finally still. The second half of the piece plays with pauses and spontaneity, the movement soft and measured. The dancers often present themselves to the audience in a lifted frontal pose, offering up their vulnerabilities. During this section, their faces are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
A duo sways exhaustedly in each other’s arms as a mischievous guitar bounces out atop beach ambience, waves crashing and gulls calling as MotionVivid™ brings to life Surf on Tides. This piece explores the human conflict of wanting to connect while being unable to do so due to limitations we impose on the depth of relationships. A modern pas de deux unfolds in which each dancer finds what choreographer Dat Nguyen calls “a solitary that is neither lonely nor fulfilling.”
An intense trio from Cindy Brandle Dance Company emerges to execute Thrown. According to Artistic Director Cindy Brandle, this was the first piece she choreographed after becoming a new mother many years ago. As she puts it, the work demonstrates “the need to be fierce, protective, and compassionate during times of chaos,” a directive that still feels relevant in today’s world. A duet from CoreDance Company enters to perform Surface & Skin, an exploration of the parallels between architecture and the human body. The dancers share weight to discover the creation of lines for the first half of the performance. They then separate to take turns creating lines while the other sits in the downstage corner, folding sheets of paper into cootie catchers to demonstrate the comparisons of lines.
Nosilla Dance Project surprised the audience by offering King-Sized Preferred, a lighthearted, humorous, illustrative journey through a couple’s night of sleep. This theatrical and brilliantly choreographed breath of fresh air is performed atop a bed and follows two clearly developed characters as they toss and turn, tug the blankets, and fall to the ground. The final piece was performed by the festival’s presenters, the T2 Dance Project. Home features a live guitarist seated in the center upstage–shaded from his spotlight under a wide brimmed hat–as well as four dancers, a table, and chairs. As choreographer Erin Turnbridge describes it, the piece “explores the conversations had with oneself and with others within the constructs of home.” The Versatility Dance Festival is aptly named, showcasing the creativity and virtuosity of dancers and choreographers alike.
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 competed 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.