The UC Riverside Department of Dance has put on another quality production with their annual undergraduate showcase, “UCR is Dancing.” Under the artistic direction of Visiting Assistant Professor Joel Smith, 17 undergraduate dance students presented original choreography that reflected five quarters of study in dance composition. The students have been working with faculty members Wendy Rogers and Susan Rose since the fall of 2010, creating choreographic projects based on a variety of structures and methods.
At the start of the fall quarter, student choreographers hold auditions for their pieces. Students of UCR from all kinds of dance backgrounds attend an open audition, and the choreographers select the dancers they wish to work with. The completed dance pieces must then audition at the end of fall quarter to be featured in the show. If selected, the pieces rehearse through winter quarter and perform at the end of it.
The pieces certainly focus on different aspects of dance, but maintain a seamless consistency as well. Some were quite rhythmically dynamic, while others utilized space, time and energy. One theme that seemed to be universal through most of the pieces was the exploration of relationship dynamics. Physical contact between the dancers was used quite powerfully, and a stark contrast was created when individuals in the performance were singled out. Many of the pieces ended with one dancer watching the rest or wandering off, emphasizing isolationism and individualism. It seemed as though each piece offered the audience a problem of humanity that needs to be solved, sometimes offering a resolution and sometimes leaving viewers chilled.
One of the pieces that was strikingly unique was “100 Beats per Minute,” choreographed by Delicia McKinney, Christina Park and Mynesha Whyte. The piece featured dancers in camouflage, stomping militarily around the stage. The piece was perhaps the most effective vehicle to explore the concept of collectivization, as various dancers broke out of the marching to dance their own phrase.
A phenomenally hilarious performance was given by choreographer Jessica Finkelstein in collaboration with Hannah Zisman. Her piece, which was the only one to feature dialogue, made light of the cliches and arbitrariness of many dance performances. She announced to the audience at the start, “I’m smiling because this is a happy piece. You’re going to like it—I can tell.” From there, she mocked the over-dramatized motions and gazing into the distance that are so prevalent in contemporary dance. It was even more amusing because of the applicability to the performances that preceded hers.
Of her performance, Finkelstein said, “I feel like my piece brought something different to the ‘UCR is Dancing’ stage and I think the audience responded well. This year has been wonderful and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near to this good if it wasn’t for all the other choreographers and dancers in the cast; not to mention our artistic director Joel Smith who helped to push us to go the distance and helped each and everyone one of us create something amazing we can all be proud of!”
Overall, this year’s “UCR is Dancing” was an outstanding showcase of the dance department’s commitment to unconventional contemporary performances. Student Jennifer Sayed said, “I thought there were some extremely talented people in the show, and that this year’s show was even more entertaining than last year’s.”
The student choreographers included Alyssa Burton, Belgica Del Rio, Jessica Finkelstein, Irvin Gonzalez, Lauren Harnitchek, Delicia McKinney, Christina Park, Ivy Rivas, Maria Romero, Ally Sanchez, Edwin Siguenza, Ariel Stern, Dyanna Uribe, Kimberly Washington, Cydney Watson, Mynesha Whyte and Hannah Zisman.