It isn’t often that aggression is more appealing than prettiness, but such was the case for this year’s A Modern Night at the Folly, the City in Motion Dance Theater’s 11th annual choreographer’s showcase.
The work of 11 choreographers from Kansas and Missouri, ranging from students to freelance professionals to professors, was selected for the event at the Folly Theater on Saturday night. The pieces ranged conceptually from punchy-antagonistic to introspective, with a dose of mischievous humor.
In Elaine Kimble-Peaks’ “Said: Done,” the dancers manipulated each other with assertive movement in synced ensemble work and superb solos. Angular gestures, as though striking out, transferred along the line and back, while smaller, individual moves – knees jutted out, a tantrum-esque stomp, scuttled transition, brief caress – reacted to forces unseen in a distinctive, innovative work.
A similar intensity occurred in Dawn Karlovsky’s “Some Privacy in a Crowded Place,” though as a man/woman duet it resonated sensually. They pulled and leaned against each other, switching places, mutually supporting and challenging.
Chadi El-Khoury’s “Words in Motion,” with Hunter Long performing his original electronic work “In Any Considerable Proportion,” featured headstands in impeccably controlled groundwork, extended legs accentuated by footed black leggings, contrasting to less specific arm work in baggy beige shirts.
“Let It Fall” was an in-progress piece by Jane Gotch, in collaboration with the performers. Leo Gayden began in silence and spotlight with a sequence of flexed gestures; Juliet Remmers, upstage in the dark, frantically searched the ground, matching the busy intricacies in Terry Riley’s “In C.” Next, Gayden break-danced across the front of the stage as Remmers braided her hair, singing Gluck’s “O del mio dolce ardor” as she walked forward. She then mimed as though puppetering herself, drawing string from within. Along with their intentionally awkward partnering, it was an imaginative use of diverse skills in a delightfully incongruous exhibit.
The clever ideas and stern attitude of Kameron N. Saunders’ “Lines Untouched” gave the work a concise quality, despite messy transitions. Carly Malsom soloed on and around a banquet-style folding table in Cathy Patterson’s “Cibophobia,” depicting the fear of food in a tortured display, continuing seamlessly when, midway, a table leg collapsed with dramatic effect.
The academic contingent, professors at University of Kansas and University of Missouri-Kansas City, took a more meditative approach. Patrick Suzeau’s “Ode” had a ceremonial quality, with scattered flowered petals and thematic poses; Muriel Cohan’s “Emergence” pulsed as a trio writhed in an undulating spotlight; Paula Weber’s “To Each Her Own” featured graceful, continuous lines, though the motifs could have used more variety.
City in Motion’s Stephanie Whittler choreographed Ernest Bloch’s “Poem of the Sea,” performed onstage by pianist Robert Lamar Sims, with tidal entrances, wide gestures and whirling turns, though danced with imperfect ensemble.
Tiffany Sisemore’s “Hush” was cheekily intriguing. Matt Tady, making effusive sound effects to “I Had a Rooster,” strode in circles around Ann Shaughnessy’s extemporaneous, childlike solo.
The evening, while not a flawless showing, offered a glimpse into the continued art making in Kansas City.