By Leah Cresswell
The Stevie Eller Dance Theater, at 1737 East University Blvd., is a place where true talent shines bright. By this, I mean it is where the University of Arizona’s School of Dance students perform, and as usual they are on point.
On a warm Sunday in late October, I had the pleasure of attending Premium Blend, a show that the school presents every fall. Impressed? Actually, I was enthralled by what I saw.
From the beginning to the end, I could not stop appreciating the amazing artists performing in front of me. There were six pieces in this dance-concert and it truly was a premium blend of styles: everything from dancers tossing bottles around the stage; a lovers duet;, dancers in everyday clothing and shoes; men in pink and lime-green gym shorts, a Latin-influenced group dance and a ballet number performed in nude body suits.
There is a reason these dancers belong to the fourth best dance program in the nation. It is because they reek of sheer ability. Their technique, their performance quality, their professionalism, everything was on “pointe.”
Coming from a dance background, I notice the technical things, along with the overall performance. The feet, the turns and the kicks are the first things I look at. I look at the dancers’ feet to see that they are pointed and turned out. I watch their turns to see if they are pulling up with their bodies, if they fall out of them or not. I also notice if their hips are uneven or if they hunch forward in their kicks. Throughout Premium Blend, the technique was near perfection. Toes were pointed, turns were solid, and the kicks made it seem as if their legs went on forever.
Though all of the routines grabbed my attention, my favorite was the final piece. A they say, save the best for last. I could watch this dance all day. The main part that I loved about it was not only the nude costumes, representing vulnerability and exposure, but also the total performance quality. Someone could be the best dancer in the world, but if they do not perform with their face, they have nothing.
In this piece entitled Four Last Songs, the emotions displayed were striking. The girls especially used their faces to tell a story. I could feel everything they were trying to portray: sadness, fear, happiness, excitement. It rushed through their bodies and it reached out into the audience. The opera style music was booming throughout the theater and the dancers matched the intensity of it exquisitely.
One part in particular that demonstrated the emotions of this piece was when a female dancer took a male dancer’s hand in her own and then let go quickly, while walking backward and holding her hand out, still gazing into his eyes. I could hear the collected breath of the audience members catch in their throats when this happened. I also felt my own breath take a little dip when I saw the emotion taking over the girl’s face. It was the most powerful moment of the show.
The choreographer was Ben Stevenson and when he and the eight dancers got together to create this piece, they didn’t create a dance, they made magic.
The rest of the show was superb as well; every dance had something special. Unbreakable, choreographed by Sam Watson and Christina Ernst and performed by nine dancers, had impeccable musicality. The dancers tossed bottles around — which may seem simple, but when they threw and caught those bottles at such high speeds across the stage, while continuing to dance and perform with the tempo of the music, it was pretty impressive. Only once did a girl drop her bottle, but like a true professional, she made it barely noticeable and did not let it affect her. Messing up is one of the realities of performing; professionalism is underscored when things do not go as planned.
Her/Him was a piece choreographed by Michael Williams and danced by Tamara Dyke-Compton and her husband Chris Compton. The love and connection in their eyes was simply beautiful. They danced wonderfully together, with such amazing chemistry. Shank’s Mare was a fun piece—danced by around twenty dancers and choreographed by James Clouser— that involved everyday people and everyday lives. You, Again was a piece with eight male dancers that represented masculinity and strength, though they were wearing neon green and pink shorts! Lastly, Twisted Tango, choreographed by Amy Ernst and danced by 21 dancers is an upbeat, high-energy piece that was a joy to watch.
Premium Blend was an extraordinary show with such a wide range of movement and style. It had ballet, jazz and modern/contemporary. I was constantly interested in what was going on and couldn’t take my eyes off of the stage full of spirited dancers. Joy and passion in every dancer was a delight to witness. I could feel every raw emotion, and that’s when you know that dance is exquisite. #