Richmond Dance Festival response

I was so captivated by the performances and films at the Richmond Dance Festival put on by Dogtown Dance Theatre. Though there were only seven pieces, those seven works included a wide variety of styles, choreography, costuming, and performance. The first piece (“The Glass Ceiling”) was a very acrobatic modern piece with two female dancers. This was followed by a dance video filmed in the woods, then a piece called “Faux Fur” that began with the four dancers almost naked and progressed with them gradually adding clothing, wigs, etc. and their actions becoming more and more performed. After intermission, there was a long experimental piece called “Incidence” centered around the use of a prop, then a Kathak dance telling the story of the Hindu god Krishna, another film (this one using eggs to center the plot around fragility and breakage), and finally an African dance with live music and vocals onstage. The variety of work was a reminder of the versatility of dance, and of how innovative choreographers, dancers, and costumers can be. “The Glass Ceiling” focused on the physical strength and agility of the dancers, showing it off through acrobatics and collaboration of their movements; “Faux Fur” seemed more about the concept of sexuality as something that is performed than about the physicality of the dancers; “Incidence” showed the dancers interacting with and exploring the motions of a large spinning prop. Each one of these focused on and developed a different aspect of the performance – they complemented each other well. I was also struck by the development of dance. While some pieces, like the Indian dance, were more traditional, many of these performances would never have been possible at earlier points in the history of dance – but I could still see the history reflected in them even as they pulled away from it. A few hundred years ago, you would never have seen almost nude dancers onstage, but you would have seen ballerinas in tights and leotard – their clothes were skintight, besides the tutu, so that you could see the motions of the dancers’ bodies. I could see the same thing happening in these modern-day costume choices – by being barefoot, not wearing tights, etc. it allows for the viewer to focus in on the movements of the dancer instead of being distracted by the movements of their clothes. Although some costume choices, and many other choices made in a performance, may seem like they are just a reaction against tradition and an attempt to abandon it, there is always a history to be traced and a connection to the traditions of the past.

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