Contemporary dance stylings were on full display in the Center for the Arts Drama Theatre for the Zodiaque Dance Company’s spring performance on Thursday.
The dance company, an elite group of UB dancers known for its diverse use of dance styles and artistic numbers, held its spring performance March 7-10, incorporating jazz, hip-hop and modern dance styles while performing new and old pieces. The company celebrated its 45th year at UB.
Students audition each year for a spot, a competitive process that historically accepts roughly a third of UB dance students.
Artistic director Kerry Ring said Zodiaque strives to make the group’s dancers versatile performers.
“The overarching theme of the program and of Zodiaque is ‘versatility matters,’ so that sort of embraces all of the different ideas that a choreographer might bring, all the different styles of dance,” Ring said. “So that’s really sort of like our platform or mission statement is to bring diversity in styles and dance to the stage.”
Audience members were captivated by the contemporary piece “Crosswise.” Dancers held a white silk cloth across the stage, tangling themselves within it as the number progressed.
The dance was meant to embody the struggle of getting through the work week, according to Ring.
“The material across the stage is just like a regular work week, and how much work and effort it is to just keep yourself moving forward along that flat line,” Ring said.
Kaleigh Fralix, a psychology major who attended the event, said she was impressed by the level of skill the group displayed in the number.
“Using props is so hard,” Fralix said. “The fact that they did it and did it so seamlessly is amazing. They made it look so easy.”
Another stand-out number entitled, “The End of Loneliness,” choreographed by guest artist Kimberly Bartosik, created a feeling of intimacy within the audience. The house lights remained up throughout the dance, so the audience was aware of the people around them. The piece made full use of the stage and made a point of exposing the brick at the back of the stage by removing the curtains.
A jazz-inspired piece commenting on the wage gap between men and women in the workforce received an emotional response from the audience. Danielle Sheather, who choreographed the piece called, “NEVER, the less,” said she was shocked to learn that women in dance, too, are often paid less than their male colleagues.
Performers dressed in business attire danced and balanced on the set-piece to an arrangement of soul music like, “It's a Man's Man's Man's World,” “I Put A Spell On You” and “Feeling Good.”
“I love soul music and I love jazz music and so these three pieces really spoke to me,” Sheather said.
The performance featured numbers previously featured in the dance company’s fall show. “Conscious Conscience” received positive attention in the fall and was featured in this performance. Choreographed by ’07 alum Richard Ashworth, the number featured exciting body percussion. Ring said the decision to include the number into “Zodiaque Dances On” was a “no brainer.” She saw the piece as a learning opportunity for the dancers in the company.
“When we think about the versatility of what the dancers can do, that piece has that rhythmic tap component … plus the diffusion of hip-hop dance, which is another style that our dancers are good at,” Ring said. “It was a really solid, strong piece that highlights our dancers in a really positive way.”
Audience members said they were impressed with the colorful lighting within the piece.
Donovan Newkirk, a political science major in the audience, said he thought the show’s lighting, designed by Matvey Kitchen, was “spectacular.”
Newkirk thought the quick transitions and the variety of colors used added to the emotional intensity of each dance number.
Ring said she hopes the performance gave the UB community a new appreciation for dance.
“There is great dance on UB’s campus, and we have a great resource for all of the students in the UB community and also for Buffalo to come see some really amazing dancers,” Ring said. “I hope that [the audience’s] definition of dance broadened with it.”
Julianna is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JTraceySpec.
Julianna Tracey is a freshman music theater and history double major. She’s excited to explore all that the Buffalo arts scene has to offer.