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Dance-makers are among the hardest pressed artists when it comes to having their work realized as they imagine it. A single choreographer can’t often afford or arrange for the theater and the tech, along with the music, the costumes and — oh, yes — the dancers. Fortunately, in the Triangle area, there is NC Dances, a two-woman mission of dance-love, run by Betsy Ward-Hutchinson and Beth Wright Fath, for the express purpose of presenting an annual concert of new work by regional choreographers. This year’s concert, in the Cary Academy Fine Arts Center Theater, featured seven area dancer-makers, and although various technical limitations and awkwardness gave the evening a DIY quality, some of the works were polished and rewarding.
Natalie Marrone reprised her sophisticated Strega Stories Part II — REVOLT, which had been included in the North Carolina Dance Festival concert at Meredith in January, and it was well worth a second viewing. Marrone gets at the witchy character of the strege — healing women from Marrone’s Italian heritage — in a delightful way, full of power and play. The steps have a rocking, alert, authoritative quality, and Marrone handles the massing and separation of five dancers adeptly. While the dance is not narrative, it does make a transformative process clear. With vivacious dancing shooting wicked gleams from metallic belts, tassels, bracelets and hair covers, bright against black and dun dresses in shadowy light, it is a visual pleasure as well as a kinetic and auditory one, as it pulses with bold sounds by Musicàntica with Roberto Catalano and Enzo Fina.
Immediately following was Joan Nicholas-Walker’s Under the Sun, Section I, set to blues music by Big Walter Horton and Carey Bell. Nicholas-Walker also performed this solo work, and the dancing was sinuous and dreamy with a tonic breath of nasty. She starts on the floor upstage, like a teenager listening to tunes. After some inventive floorwork, she rises and undulates downstage, to take the floor again, flicking our attention away with her fingers as the lights go down. Clever and satisfying, Under the Sun has enough going on to hold up after the previous, larger-scaled work.
The show also included works by Courtney Greer, Heather Rose and Sarah Adams Bean, and Talani Torres that are smaller in concept and not as rigorously thought-out, as well as two ambitious works that didn’t quite get there. Chrissy Hawley Pressley’s 142 Mercer Avenue is unrelentingly narrative, but has no arc. Things happen — though not enough of them — but emotion does not build. Killian Manning closed the evening with her large new piece, A Fairy Tale, set to music by Meredith Monk. This is not narrative (or if it is, I couldn’t read the story), but also suffers from lack of intensifying feeling. Additionally, the cast is so large that adequate spacing was not possible on this stage, turning many of the segments to a visual mush of long limbs in pale clothes. I’ll hope to see both of these dances in future iterations, maybe in next year’s NC Dances.
*NC Dances can be supported through its fiscal agent, The North Carolina Dance Alliance.