Keely Damara/Courier PCC Dance Department students perform a contemporary dance piece titled “Clay” choreographed by Helena Cardiel-Stevens during Searchlight: An Evening of Contemporary Dance in Sexton Auditorium on Saturday, December 5, 2015. The performance showcased the work of students and faculty of the PCC dance department.
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Barefoot dancers swiftly moved across the Sexson Auditorium stage last week, demonstrating the diverse capabilities of Pasadena City College’s School of Visual Media and Performing Arts Dance Department.

Keely Damara/Courier PCC Dance Department students perform a contemporary dance piece titled “Clay” choreographed by Helena Cardiel-Stevens during Searchlight: An Evening of Contemporary Dance in Sexton Auditorium on Saturday, December 5, 2015. The performance showcased the work of students and faculty of the PCC dance department.
Keely Damara/Courier
PCC Dance Department students perform a contemporary dance piece titled “Clay” choreographed by Helena Cardiel-Stevens during Searchlight: An Evening of Contemporary Dance in Sexton Auditorium on Saturday, December 5, 2015. The performance showcased the work of students and faculty of the PCC dance department.

The stage went dark and the slight silhouette of the dancers peeked through the backlights of the auditorium. The dancers, who positioned themselves, faced down and waited for the music to begin.

Finally, the music and lights simultaneously turn on and the dancers revealed their glitter masks. The repetition of the Hindu chorus from Axel Thesleff’s “Bad Karma,” “O na kar man rupaiye wala bar bar ke na rajje,” was heard as their masks glimmered in and out of the light to the rhythm.

The first grouped kicked their legs and turned, following the second and then third, similar to a domino effect. Dancers took turns to display the routine they practiced so hard.

The dance ended with the symbolic movement of the group dragging down a single dancer as the song began to end.

Timing was needed to perform precise movements and if one dancer had messed up, the illusion of the group dance would have been sacrificed.

A difficulty that worried the artistic directors Cheryl Banks Smith and Roberta Shaw was that students underestimated the commitment and hard work these need to be successful.

“They depend in one another,” said Shaw one of the artistic directors of the dance. “Luckily these students were good about it.”

The directors gave their dance students complete decisions on the choice of music, choreography and use of the stage.

“It was interesting to see that there was so many interesting different approaches to a dance, “ said Banks. “ There’s a great representation of the different styles like spoken word, hip hop, tap dance and even spoken word.”

The fourth dance performance included narration of dancers who spoke about stories that pertained to the dancers individually.

Phrases like “I love being gay ” and “ I don’t know why I’m always angry ” were confessed during the spoken word that was said before their dance, “Chingasos Make a Good Poet.” Chingasos, which is Spanish slang for physical blows, illuminated a story of a women who struggles with domestic violence.

“I said I love you, the way a trapped animal would if it was able to speak,” was another line narrated during the performance that best describes the forced relationship that is encompassed in a relationship full of violence, fear and weariness.

Nina Simone’s song “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” then played as the dancers choreographed a dance that questioned gender roles. A male dancer took of his pants and switched with a female dancer’s skirt. They swayed back and forth while balancing one another’s dance movements.

The dance ended with the dancers taking off all their clothing, showing only nude colored undergarments in a foggy and white back-lit stage.

In their last performance, the dance students wearing colorful leotards danced eloquently while gripping each other’s hands.

There were 13 performances in total. When the performances finished, the dancers and directors stood together, bowed and waved goodbye as they continued to dance while the Sexson’s burgundy curtain closed on them.

 

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