University of Missouri-Kansas City’s outdoor scene was bustling last Friday night, as was the arts landscape in general, but devoted dance enthusiasts could be found scattered throughout the White Recital Hall for Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company’s spring performance. The company closed their 23rd season celebrating the past and looking toward the future. Works by two well-known choreographers, Fred Benjamin and Eleo Pomare, bookended the seven-piece program.
Benjamin’s Ice Fire started out cool and calm, proceeding with a few climactic punctuations that gradually culminated in a fiery finale. The eight-person ensemble demonstrated tremendous stamina and flexibility on this piece that served as the program’s closer, even kicking it up a notch for the fervent finish.Winston Dynamite Brown and Katie Jenkins’ bodies sang in performance of a charming pas-de-deux, in which everyone soared during a visually stunning leap succession.
Pomare’s Back to Bach, which opened the evening’s showcase, also included a diverse lexicon of dance genres. The company struggled to keep up with Bach’s brisk tempos and Pomare’s persistent choreography, which required the dancers to quickly fluctuate between turned in and turned out motions. The sequences also beckoned a contrasting fluidity, especially in the upper body, that became elusive. Alas, the dancers’ joyful demeanors would have delighted Pomare, who was a well-known teacher and impresario for outreach movements in New York City.
The highlight of the evening may have been penultimate, and it was well worth the wait. Brown is the type of artist one could watch perpetually, and his performance in Exit proved to be stupendously powerful and breathtaking. Tiffany Sisemore’s choreography for Brown was crafty and captivating, starting with minute movements that escalated in time to U2’s song by the same name.
WHCDC apprentice Alessandra Perdichizzi also delivered a strong solo, Mosquito, choreographed by Ming Xia. Perdichizzi, who fared well with Xia’s contemporary choreography, is a striking girl with a beautiful facility and magnetic presence, and has great post-conservatory potential. Xia’s waspy costume design and musical selection from James Mobberley (with Keith Benjamin on trumpet) were very apropos to her inventive concept.
Perdichizzi also had a feature role in DeeAnna Hiett’s subsequent ensemble piece. Set to music composed by Geoff Bennett, Monfassa bared a physical, primal theme, which is familiar to Hiett’s work. The dancers matched the dynamic tribal accents with equally assertive contractions, isolations, and thrusting. Unfortunately, hurried phrasing and inattentiveness to congruity became overwhelming and distracting in this performance.
Artistic Director Mary Pat Henry reprised her work Solemn Vow, which highlights three women in different stages of life. Jenkins, as the young woman, exhibited euphoria while LisaThorn Vinzant illustrated longing through her pensive, but precise portrayal. Paula Weber ended the progressionand made her solemn vow with a gripping, mature solo.
The company also brought back their recent commission Never Wake a Sleepwalker that debuted at Johnson County Community College’s New Dance Partners in Fall 2013. Autumn Eckman’s amusing abstraction included universal themes, such as sudden fainting spells and lethargic litanies. While each dancer stood apart for his or her individual style, Holly DeWitt, Hassan Ingraham, and Demetrius McClendon stood out with extended energy and engagement.