The University Dance Company's fall concerts Thursday and Friday offered new works inspired both by the rhythms and movements of nature and the search for humans' place in the world.
Jerel Hilding's "Prelude," danced by Rachel Moses and Matt Abbick to two preludes by George Gershwin, opened the program with a dose of relationship play. Moses in a magenta leotard danced lightly and en pointe, in juxtaposition to Abbick, in slacks and tie, who made full use of the floor as he lamented her frequent absences. His use of cell phone and none-too-subtle "up-yours" gesturing elicited audience chuckles.
Joan Stone's hypnotic "The Bathers That Disappeared" came next, performed by five female dancers wearing A-line gowns in ocean-inspired colors. The work, based on photographs of ancient tree trunks that washed up on an Oregon beach one summer and disappeared the next, borrowed the soothing, undulating wave motion of the ocean. Above Hamza el Din's percussive "Waterwheel," the dancers reinforced a tidal theme with repetitive phrases, such as arm scoops that suggested seaside bathing.
The most well-received number on the program was choreographed by a student for his senior project. In Jun Kuribayashi's "Scattered Hearts," Kuribayashi and Meggi Sweeney spent more time creatively intertwined than they did apart, their bodies forming stark gestures and midair lines above a driving industrial score.
The mood shifted sharply in Willie Lenoir's "Forest Runners," a bright, energetic work featuring five dancers who interacted in groups of varying sizes to music of the same title by David Arkenstone.
Muriel Cohan and Patrick Suzeau's "Hombre Errante" ("Wandering Man") returned for an encore after its debut at the company's spring concerts. Just as stunning this time around were both the a cappella choral score, written by Gabriela Lena Frank and recorded by the KU Chamber Choir, and Cohan/Suzeau's characteristically gestural choreography that makes full use of the stage and dynamic interactions among groups of dancers. Suzeau reprised his sensitive interpretation of the solo role, with noteworthy solo additions by company alumna Ellie Goudie-Averill.
Rounding out the evening was "Skylife," a sprightly ballet by guest choreographer Michael Simms. Fantastic multicolored unitards and feathery hair pieces by Susan Rendall set a playful tone for this homage to the lightness and grace of birds. Danced ably by nine women, the piece made use of fascinating entrances and rapid footwork.
Overall, it was a diverse and fulfilling evening of dance. Look for the company's spring concert to offer more of the same.