Intimacy and variety seem to be the calling cards of the Kansas City Dance Festival. In his opening remarks Friday night, co-founder Anthony Krutzkamp directed, “Turn to your friends and talk about what you saw. Chances are you saw something completely different.”
How true. The festival, now in its third year, is more of an artist residency than a full-blown festival, but quality over quantity is appreciated. The enthusiastic audience was certainly engaged.
Besides moving to the Folly Theater, there wasn’t much overall structural change or growth, with many familiar names and faces from past seasons. The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
A new name opened the show, though, with the United States premiere of British choreographer Douglas Lee’s “Chimera.” The tense work was abstract, theatrical and slightly sinister, projecting a wary sense of unknowingness. The quartet wore gray fencing masks as they moved — sometimes as though puppeteered, sometimes with serpentine spines — through intricate sequences.
There were no tutu-and-tiara classical pieces this year, unless you count George Balanchine’s flirtatious “Rubies” pas de deux, danced by Olivia Hartzell and Alexander Peters with the right attitude but a bit stiff-hipped, set to the neo-classical strains of Igor Stravinsky.
Stravinsky was also featured in Marco Goecke’s phenomenal reimagining of “The Firebird.” Though the music was familiarly epic, the inventive choreography and excellent performance added surprises that had the audience laughing at one point and gasping at the end.
For it, Abigail Sheppard and Gabriel Davidsson returned to the festival, once again offering outstanding performances. Twitchy hands, shrugging shoulders, jagged gestures, a shuffling, stuttering sort of progress across the floor creatively alluded to the mythological story in a muscular, controlled and fully embodied rendition.
They paired again for Italian Davide Bombana’s “The Art of the Fugue” in a beautiful, intimate display.
Two works premiered in Kansas City last year and were a pleasure to revisit. Jennifer Owen’s pensive “De Memoire de Rose” featured Owen and Michael Davis in a tender duet. Penny Saunders’ “Ghost Light,” from last season’s New Dance Partners, featured a regal Rachel Coats dancing with the fascination of a faded dream. A male trio (Davis, Charles Martin and Logan Pachciarz) were uproarious in their floorwork of swinging, vernacular gestures and a “Weekend at Bernie’s” slapstick sequence.
Krutzkamp and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye’s collaborative choreography closed the show with the world premiere “Richter Scales.” Though the two styles didn’t knit together perfectly, the six dancers displayed energy and versatility throughout the varied phrases.
The Kansas City Dance Festival concludes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Folly Theater. Tickets are $25-$35 through KCDanceFestival.com.