The Athena Project celebrated its sixth year of empowering women in the arts this month with its annual Arts Festival, which showcased fashion, music, theatre, and dance. The gorgeous and urban Eugenia C. Rawls Courtyard Theatre at the University of Colorado’s Auraria campus was the ideal space for the presentation of Evening of World Dance on Saturday, March 17, 2018. This intersectional showcase of women choreographers consisted of excerpts from previously premiered works as well as previews of works still in the creative process.
The evening began with Leslie Merrill’s piece windows and doors, a multimedia contemporary duet. The dancers’ shadows mingled with the double exposure film clips projected on the stage, creating a delicate scene which was reinforced by the piano and strings in the music. This piece gave way to Anna Claire Brunelli’s Wild Within, Magic Throughout. A spiritual solo set to the sound of a mantra chanted by the Dalai Lama, Brunelli’s geometric movement style stretched from within her, exploring the curvature of the body and accentuating its strength.
Erin Anderson’s Triple Threat commanded the stage from its first memorable formation of three dancers stacked over each other, with their long voluminous hair draped over one another. With the initiation of the primal, percussive music, the dancers moved as if one savage beast. They erupted into individuals, stomping about the stage with vigor. The next piece began in the wings, a trio of dancers emerging from behind the curtain in the silence of ever-shifting shared weight. Gwen Ritchie’s collaboration in contact improvisation with Chrissy Nelson and Ryder Turner, entitled 11, constantly evolved before the audience’s eyes. Set to the soundtrack of the dancers’ live breaths and exclamations as they established and diminished forms instantaneously, this playful experience explored human contact and the dynamic of groups of three.
The evening continued to diversify as Caitlin Bronza-Smith’s Nephthys took the stage. Three masked goddesses entranced the audience with their Egyptian cabaret style belly-dance. Forms inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics evoked iconic images, and transported the audience to a different scene. Following this illustrative work was Cindy Brandle’s The Healing Trio. An emotional and politically charged narrative was demonstrated through dynamic formation changes and exploration of levels through jumps and floor work. Brandle’s piece took only two and a half hours to construct in the studio from start to finish, and came into being as a form of catharsis in response to grief.
Lily Padilla’s solo piece, Listen to My Silence, explored ballet, contemporary, and modern styles. Light as air and unafraid to take risks, this piece was a testament to the courage required to speak one’s mind. In a lively finale, Kebrina Josefina De Jesus’ A Rooted Return, brought samba to the stage. Characterized by the quick weight changes and curvilinear shapes of the Afro-Brazilian style, the dancers lifted their long, layered skirts to make their movements even larger. The dancers interacted with the live drummers and orbited around each other in this three-part conclusion to Evening of World Dance.
During a lively talkback between the artists and the audience following the show, an audience member expressed her gratitude for the showcase, and for the privilege to experience so many different languages of dance in one night. Although the styles varied, each piece seemed to convey a similar theme of being grounded in the earth, in each other, and in one’s self.
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.