Posted on Jul 22, 2013
4 out of 5
Erin Muenks, a Kansas City choreographer, showcased some new choreography on Saturday, July 20th at the KC Ballet Bolender Center. By explicitly asking her audience to privately reflect on the previous piece during intermittent bouts of music, Erin Muenks left the audience with the only thing they usually appreciate most: their opinions. And though the teeter-totter setup of music and dance was not immediately well-received right away, the audience did eventually start to appreciate the decision. Maybe Muenks did not have enough choreography to fill the entire hour, or maybe she intended for it to be this way from the beginning, but it was due to this choreographer-induced mental revelry that the audience eventually came to grips with having to listen to music in darkness for a few minutes -- with a complete lack of dance Ö at a choreography showcase.
Because dance is, at its foundation, a story of the body, everything technical about this piece was simple: simple costumes, simple props, and simple lighting. Usually, dressing your dancers in long skirts leads to all kinds of obstacles, but the dancers handled this element with fluid professionalism. The props were extraordinarily plain and ambiguous so as to offer a grander and more objective experience to the audience. Keeping the technical elements simple really gives way to the choreography and the props informing the entirety of the audienceí understanding of the dances.
The amount of interpretation this showcase offered was astronomical, though, which is not always a good thing. This question comes to mind: how ambiguous is too ambiguous? At a certain point, the audience can become bored from the lack of implicative story-telling. And at times, a general sense of confusion leaves the audience unsatisfied. However, due to the small, yet noticeable, differences within the lyrical-contemporary style that is used, it becomes somewhat easy to discern a story or through-line (however far from the true story it may actually be). Muenks had a particular skill at differentiating the pieces by varying the feel of movement in each piece. The opening number with the chair features a dancer who shows a beautifully- functional and mechanical movement. Expectedly, after itís over, the audience is left with many unanswered questions as to the progression of the story and plot. The second piece features a dancer working with a bouquet of flowers; she exhibits a myriad of more aesthetically-based movement --movement rooted more in emotion than the previous piece. However, this dancer didnít give in to the common desire to overplay emotional moments; it was just a lovely, understated piece. After this number, it becomes clear as mud that, perhaps, these dances are visual representations of the different ways in which different people handle the same struggle. A second thought comes in the darkness, accompanied with a change in music: maybe these dancers represent a different aspect of human life. But I digress: the next dancer is a strong male who, with an interesting mix of grace and staccato accents, threatens to overact in some moments -- but, then again, he is also given more dramatic, possibly a little too dramatic, choreography. His piece has a more pedestrian feel to it -- very sympathetic to recent popular contemporary. The final soloist is Erin Muenks herself, covering for a missing dancer. This dance is made up of more fluid movements, almost as if itís being danced in water. Itís innocent, immature, and itís full of discovery and exploration. Though I imagine the dance probably looks a little more natural on the intended performer, Muenks certainly does it justice. Then, after a short group finale and a couple of short duets, the evening comes to an abstruse and hazy end. At this point in time, everyone has their own idea of what they just saw -- a conundrum good theatre often causes. There is one small note about technique, though (which is pretty solid throughout): the extensive leg work in many of the pieces often leads to uninformed and lazy port de bras work far too often.
Because of the unique and subjective experience pushed onto the audience by Erin Muenks, this Choreography Showcase is one of the more artistic and thoughtful pieces being performed at the KC Ballet Bolender Center. Itís worth a viewing, if not two viewings, just to reign oneís thoughts into place.