Hedwig Dances Review – Hedwig Dances’ 25th Anniversary Season New Works

I went to see the culminating Hedwig Dance's 25th Anniversary Performance presented by the Dance Program in the Theatre Department of Northwestern University.  Northwestern University’s Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center is an intimate black box setting where Jan Bartoszek, artistic director and founder of Hedwig Dances introduced the evening’s program as the final pieces in the company’s 25th anniversary season.

Jessie Gutierrez is the dancer in the red dress

During this significant year the company premiered their first dance film entitled Arch of Repose in New York City.  The film was the culmination of a yearlong process of dance research and development for Ms. Bartoszek as a 2008 Chicago Dancemaker forum Lab Artist.  The first two performances were commissioned as new works by company dance members. The dances blended choreography with sculptural artifacts, ephemeral images and haunting music, and feature Fellini-esque characters on a journey from circus tent to dream-like realm

Maray Gutierrez is the dancer in a pink dress

Moi Aussi was dancer Michel Rodriguez’s choreographic debut. This dance featured Jessie Gutierrrez and Michel Rodriguez in an intricate battle of repeated touches and rejections, dips and swipes. Their faces void of emotion, the story of this relationship is all in the movements; the reaches and recoils, the holds and escapes, the power that shifts and returns to each partner.  For it seems that despite their friction these two are tied fitfully together, cooperating in a weirdly disturbing harmony of coordinated movements.  The couple depicts many modern relationships where the balance swings wildly and the roles have evolved beyond the conventional.

Dust, choreographed by Andrea Miller, featured dancers Justin Deschamps and Michel Rodriguez as two men yoked together in a torturous pattern of running in circles while alternatively blinding each other as they circle the floor.  The essence of the dance displayed pointlessly circling as the dancers seemed to undermine one another. It, like a very bad marriage from which no one is willing to leave, was sad and boring.  Both dances insistently lacked much in the way of sexual expression or tension.

Sawdust Palace Suite by choreographer Susan Marshall with dancers Jessie Gutierrez & Victor Alexander

The final work was Sawdust Palace Suite, choreographed by Susan Marshall in collaboration with Kristen Hollinsworth, Luke Miller, Petra Van Noort, Joseph Poulson, and Darrin Wright.  The dancers were Victor Alexander, Alitra Cartman, Justin Deschamps, Jessie Gutierrez, Maray Gutierrez and Michel Rodriguez.   This series of short dances cheerfully abandoned the prior failed relationship theme and exploded into “elements of burlesque, cabaret and vaudeville”.   Susan Marshall and Company was commissioned in 2007 to participate in a Bard College Spiegeltent Arts Festival. Our small audience was invited to be part of the stage where dancers literally swung from the rafters and littered the scene with chicken feathers plucked from a costume.  Portions of this “unplugged-style tent cabaret” were wild, unpredictable, funny and just plain silly.  While this dance style was more conventionally entertaining, I found that much of it was still quite puzzling and its’ meaning unclear.  

Very fine dancers, themes of frustration and alienation, plot-less and pointless.  The thought ran through my mind,  “Is this the essence of modern dance?”

Photos: Eileen Ryan Photography

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