‘Modern Night at the Folly’ choreographic showcase displays creativity, strength

Vulnerability, frailty and ambiguity were the strengths of this year’s “A Modern Night at the Folly,” the 12th annual choreographic showcase presented by City in Motion Dance Theater. Despite the late winter storm Saturday night, an audience of dance enthusiasts gathered in the Folly Theater to enjoy a varied, creative program from local and regional artists.

The presentation started with audience members tromping onstage, attaching photographs of children to two ropes suspended parallel across the stage for Suzanne Ryan Strati’s “Somebodies.” Under these pictures and accompanied by Shane Koyczan’s spoken-word poem “To This Day,” Margarita Diaz Lutz moved with a ferocity that consumed the stage in a passionate anti-bullying display. Her final gesture emphasized the thump of her heartbeat.

Another fine solo came from Caroline Fogg in Mary Pat Henry’s “Obsession,” featuring lines by poet Sylvia Plath. Fogg moved with tortured plasticity, ambiguous but aggressive. The music and voice added mystical incantations, while taut fabric panels behind her revealed the ghostly outline of faces or hands, enhancing the provocative work.

The duets were stand outs. “Only Bird,” performed and choreographed by Errin Cusack and Lindsay Pierce, was a mesmerizing work with a dash of macabre. Appearing distracted and disturbed by the recordings of crows, cicadas, ethereal singing and chimes, they maneuvered each other back into the dance with shared poses and compassionate gestures.

Kameron N. Saunders’ inventive “Without Warning” featured DJ Duncan and Prince Lyons in smooth, loose-jointed phrases that came together succinctly with attention-grabbing partnering.

Patrick Suzeau’s solo “Anonymous” seemed like a duet, too, with his rake prop serving almost as a partner in a piece that celebrated working the land.

Of the larger ensemble works, Elaine Kimble-Peaks’ “Shadow” captured attention. The dancers moved purposefully, stopping with tense, exasperated gestures and grabbing their own faces. They harshly manipulated each other or smashed through the group, yet displayed unity throughout phrases.

R. Vance Baldwin’s “The Journey” was a cagily nuanced work, pretty to watch if thematically confusing, as the dancers, all flowing skirts and curved limbs, reached out or rejected a fellow’s embrace or soft touch.

Muriel Cohan’s “Groove” and Dale Fellin’s “Since Then” used similar musical material and structural elements and suffered from telegraphed preparations and messy ensemble phrases.

Willie Lenoir’s lighthearted “Concerto per Sette” incorporated flamenco-esque steps against a musical framework from the baroque, with the performers finishing the program with wide smiles and the flip of their skirts.

By Libby Hanssen, The Kansas City Star