Lehrer Dance[s] the night away

Local dance company sells out CFA Mainstage for first UB performance of the year


The Lehrer Dance Company has continued to take flight on and offstage with its sellout first performance at UB.

Buffalo’s own Lehrer Dance with 10,000 Maniacs filled all 1,732 seats at the Center for the Arts Mainstage on Saturday to start its home season.

Innovating modern dance with its signature style, Lehrer Dance is thriving. The company has shared its choreography across the United States, and with sponsorship by the U.S. Consulate, has toured Russia three times, most recently in 2014.

Lehrer Dance is successful is part because its style cannot be categorized under any dance genre. Its modern movement is a fierce fusion of jazz, acrobatic athleticism and theatrics. Each dancer brings emotion, thought and purpose with every movement.

“What sets us apart from other companies is that we have a very specific style and technique that we are constantly developing and exploring, “said Christiana Cavallo, Lehrer dance member and UB alumnae. “We combine athleticism and artistry with accessibility. Our movement is highly influenced by physics and the way humans move naturally. So when we take those human qualities to the stage, we create something superhuman, but that the audience can still very much relate to.”

Opening with Cash or Check brought a 1920s jazz movement that had attendees snapping their fingers along to the rhythm.

The dancers made the performance seem easier than it really was – their gracefulness onstage made the choreography visually glossy.

It did well in grabbing the audience with its artful humor – during the performance the characters onstage included slapstick humor in between their arrangements. The dancers seemed to personify the music.

After the first song you could see the dancers’ chemistry onstage.

Murmur was a piece that seemed to buzz with acrobatic prowess. Dancers floated, almost weightlessly, about the stage.

Gabriella Mameli and Ginger Page, both freshman dance majors, said the company always puts on a good show.

“They are very fluid and smooth,” Page said.

Combining indigenous sound and movement, the world premiere piece Chukchi is a modern twist of Russian movement. The unplugged music was hard-hitting and the vocals were tantalizing and tribal. The costumes for this piece glimmered under the opaque light and quickly became a crowd favorite.

After intermission, Femeie De Lume took flight. Dancer Colleen Walsh began by haphazardly stepping on the other dancers who knelt down like stepping-stones for her, jumping from back to back.

This quickly became a powerful piece, as the eerie opera music met the negative shapes and shadows of the lighting onstage. The dancers coalesced into what seemed to be one unified movement – they turned this into a conceptually refined and aesthetically pleasing piece.

The next segment Loose Canon began like how most college mornings do – waking up irritated and in need of more sleep.

Each dancer captured a comical personality with exaggerated movement, the result of a perfect collision between nimble, contemporary movements and method acting.

The crowd hysterically laughed to the humorously inflated movements of the dancers.

A Western New York favorite, 10,000 Maniacs, began its five-song set titled Like a Dream in the Night with the soothing vocals of Natalie Merchant. The lyrics were packed with a string of beautiful imagery, from love songs to folk grooves.

The sound was textured with delicate violin transitions, bass, rhythmical lyrics and guitar riffs throughout its set.

Lehrer Dance accompanied its set with the graceful repertoire that it’s known for.

Dancers performed in sync, only stopping at times to highlight an individual dancer’s athleticism and grace in a solo.

“[I’ve] never seen something like this before, it was refreshing,” said Urias Dames, 32 year-old Buffalo native and attendee of the show.

The combination of movement and live music in this collaboration was described as new, interesting and at times, distracting – it seemed to draw mixed feelings from the crowd.

“It was a little too much at time,” said Larry Ezrow, a 20-year-old Western New York native.

Giovanni Gaglianese is an arts staff writer. Arts desk can be reached at arts@ubspectrum.com.