“A Modern Night at the Folly,” the 14th annual choreographic showcase presented by City in Motion Dance Theater, gathered familiar voices of local and regional choreographers for a show connecting turbulent, angst-ridden works with pieces that encouraged compassion.
The show Saturday at the Folly Theater included quite a few graduates from the dance program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and many artists recognizable in the Kansas City dance scene.
Familiarity may be the sticking point, here. There was a homogeneity to the show, with less thematic variety than we’ve seen in past years. The movement, overall, was emotionally driven, in some cases technique suffering in execution, and while much of it was pretty or evocative, there was not much risk-taking from a creative standpoint.
There were standouts, though. Kameron N. Saunders’ “Pas De Garçons,” while literally a dance of men, was perhaps the most inventive of the show. The quartet of lithe, muscular men (Prince Lyons, Camaron Ballard, DJ Duncan, Joshua Hall) gave a balletic performance with seamless partnering and incredible lifts, creating flowing sequences of loose gestures that were elegant and simultaneously unexpected.
This piece had the most stunning ending, was the most theatrical (with rolling fog), and earned the loudest audience approval, yet it was tucked in the middle of the second half.
“Lift Me,” choreographed by sisters Andi Abernathy and Stephanie Ruch for female trio (Trystan Brown, Sarah Frangenberg, Elise Nill), followed, and fortunately it, too, was a piece with conviction and dramatic lifts. The lonesome layered vocal lines created close, strained harmonies and the twitchy, fearful, struggling movement followed suit, the intensity of the performers granting grace to the angularly constructed poses, ending with an audible gasp and sigh.
Regarding risking-taking: Elaine Kimble-Peaks’ “Colour Me Anything” contained a fantastic trust fall, executed in silence amidst a series of elastic, motivic gestures: pointing, palms rubbing, movement jagged and flexed.
A mystic “The Seer,” choreographed by COHAN/SUZEAU and danced by Patrick Suzeau, included an interesting hooded effect, beautiful gliding motion and drastic shifts in plain.
Oklahoma-based Tina Kambour used modern Middle Eastern-influences in her “Saltwaters,” the dancers’ loose flowing hair a focal point of the work, though the act of braiding and unbraiding was a moment for more exploration and attention.
Four works imitated outward and inner struggles. R. Vance Baldwin’s “Forgiveness” was a narrative of anger and violence and reconciliation, with flung-out gestures, jostling elbows and in-your-face mannerisms. Cathy Patterson’s melancholy “My Battle” individualized five emotional reactions, while Stephanie Whittler’s “Fractured Embrace” offered both disconnected and tender abstraction. Maggie Osgood Nicholls used spoken word by Craig Salvay to shape the powerlessness of “The End.”
The subdued “Under the Rain,” by Leigh Murray, incorporated a collage of nature sounds (rain, thunder, rushing water) with non-confrontational music, setting a series of gestures as though flicking water, jumping in puddles or walking in rain, for a sweet, prosaic and curiously flat closer.
The abrupt and disconcerting switch in house lighting between each piece added a touch of amateur hour to the concert. “Modern Night” is an important component of the contemporary dance community in Kansas City, but this was not the most challenging of programs in recent memory.