Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, marking 2 1/2 decades dedicated to creating and presenting exemplary modern dance that addresses social justice issues and examines human interactions. The performance Saturday in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s White Recital Hall included world premiere works as well as highlights from the company’s repertoire.
The group opened with a work premiered earlier this season, Gregory Dawson’s “Twisted Metal.” It’s a strong piece, making use of aggressive strides and posturing and laced with funky balletic gestures against an electronic soundscape of smearing descents, buzzes and beats. This aggression was also exploited with frequently changing, disconnected groupings, dividing the audience’s attention.
This was the world premier of Kaylin Horgan’s “Between a Crease on an Elevated Place,” an improvised piece with movement, lighting and music decisions made in real time. Featuring dancers Sarah Frankenberg and Alexandra Perdichizzi, the work depicted a tender sort of struggle, with Frankenberg somewhat chaotic and Perdichizzi a calming force, smoothing her hair, covering her eyes, guiding and catching her in smooth, responsive movement.
DeeAnna Hiett’s elegant trio “Ensuing” was also a world premiere. The two male dancers vied for the woman’s attention within a context of subtly competitive partnering sequences, which, though generally restrained, included impressive sudden leaps and dramatic catches.
The remainder of the program featured works from Wylliams/Henry’s established repertoire.
Mary Pat Henry, artistic director and co-founder, choreographed “Esperando Nin Silencio” in 1995, responding to those whose children were disappeared by the Argentine government. The powerful imagery in the work contrasted fearful, distressed gestures with fevered, swirling, stomping movements.
Both Amber Perkins’ “Ritual” and Leni Wylliams’ “Sweet in the Morning” exhibited sculptural control. In “Ritual,” Winston Dynamite Brown and Katie Jenkins’ pairing had a lyric tension as they lifted and supported each other, gliding through movements with strength and poise.
John Swapshire was soloist for the late Wylliams’ work. Balancing on a wooden bench, he made a looming figure framed by the projection of a stained glass window, yet the performance was intimate and delicate.
The program concluded with a work from their first season, Kevin Iega Jeff’s “Church of Nations.” The ensemble cast the dancers as priests in turmoil, kneeling and praying, then seated on folding chairs for an inventive sequence that expressed struggling constraints, including covering of eyes, ears and mouth, and flinging out gestures as though their hands were bloodied by proxy.
A repeat of the work’s final portion served as encore to an exciting and representative program for the company.