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Dance Review | 'Dances at MuCCC'


It’s not often that a performance features tap, Irish dance, afro-modern, ballet and modern works all in a single show. The Wednesday night performance of “Dances at MuCCC,” which will be repeated on Friday, included pieces that touched each of these styles.

Now in its tenth year, “Dances at MuCCC” is unique in its presentation of varying styles and artists. The showcase is well-established in the Rochester dance community and attracts audiences who might be curious about the local dance scene, highlighting a mixture of performers ranging from professionals and up-and-coming dancers to teachers and students.

This year is no different, with four performances of two programs. Program A — which was performed Wednesday, June 19 and again Friday, June 21 — features upbeat pieces, like “Oh, hi!” by Joshua Lang, which contrasted classical ballet with a retro, soap opera-like storyline and props such as cordless phones.

“Atali Wawa” by Zanyla A. Penn was a celebration of movement and color, with a lively use of fabric and rhythm woven within Afro-modern technique. Both works could have used more polish in their specificity of movement, but were enjoyable and exuded a lighthearted energy.

Briana Blair Kelly and Fiona Kier perform “Rhythmic Conversation." - SANDY ARENA MEDIA & PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Sandy Arena Media & Photography
  • Briana Blair Kelly and Fiona Kier perform “Rhythmic Conversation."

“Rhythmic Conversation” by Briana Blair Kelly and Fiona Kier was especially buoyant, showcasing tap and Irish dance. The “conversation” ping-ponged between the two dancers, with each responding to the rhythms of the other. Kelly and Kier were exceptional, and the audience’s enthusiastic cheering rightfully reflected the impact of the duo’s impressive skillset.

A more contemplative work, “Chapter 38” by Cat D. Olson/CAT + THE COYOTE, showcased a different kind of beauty. Dancing to a Schubert composition, Olson played her body as if it were a musical instrument. She demonstrated complete control, flinging her body to the ground without hesitation and interrupting her long lines with backbreaking arches and collapsing movements.

  • Cat D. Olson/CAT + THE COYOTE.
The opening image of “Chapter 38” contrasted drastically with Olson’s final position, which seemed to demonstrate an evolution and inward reflection of Olson as an artist. She began the piece sitting in a chair facing the audience, knees knocked toward each other and arms flung out to her side. Olson’s face wasn’t visible and the sight was almost unnerving at first, as her torso was remarkably arched over the back of the chair.

In the final image before the stage went black, Olson stood tall on the chair, again facing the audience. Her feet were turned out in the first position of classical ballet technique, arms above her head rounded in fifth position. Traditionally, this silhouette is considered beautiful, but Olson showed that the shape felt forced in her body. In contrast, the chaotic, animalistic, modern movement of the rest of the work seemed natural — and therefore, more powerful.

Like Olson, Amya Brice used a chair to elevate her choreography in “Dyad.” With a repeated motif of reaching skywards and climbing the wall at the back of the stage, it felt like Brice was grasping for something just out of her reach. When the music changed from an instrumental piece to “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, she embodied the music with a forced cheer, complete with an exaggerated grin aimed at the audience.
Brice’s strength — like that of most of the evening’s dancers — was her commitment to movement. The artists were confident in their choreography and unafraid of pushing physical and artistic limits.

It's clear that this confidence was nurtured by the space at MuCCC and the supportive nature of the showcase. “Dances at MuCCC” is a phenomenal part of the Rochester dance scene, and this year’s production has proven once more that the showcase is here to stay.

"Dances at MuCCC" continues through Saturday, June 22. More info and tickets here.

Sydney Burrows is a contributor to CITY.