"Steal Away," Ashley Nagel

“Steal Away,” Ashley Nagel

CoLab, the Columbia/Barnard interdisciplinary student arts organization, held their first performance of their spring showcase last night. Their final two performances are today at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Glicker-Milstein Theatre in the Diana Center; tickets are free but can be reserved in advance on the CUArts site. To give you a taste of what CoLab has to offer this semester, Bwog sent one of its more unartistic arts-lovers to see the show. Disclaimer: this review may not contain any actual dance knowledge. Go see it!

The black box in the Diana Center is a very small and very intimate space: if you sit in the first few rows, you feel as if you are literally sharing the stage with the performers, or that you have somehow stumbled into a room where these people happen to be dancing, and they’ve allowed you to stay. Such an upfront setting leaves every sound and movement produced without mystery; it’s easy to understand how the dancer’s bodies interact with each other and the stage, to hear every thump of a landing after a jump, to see the tiny movements of a dancer’s feet and legs as she prepares to lunge or dive. That proximity demystifies the performance, and makes it more impressive. The moments of slight awkwardness that are inevitable whenever you watch people’s bodies perform that up-close conversely made their grace and skill more appreciable.

As the program advertises, the showcase had a huge variety of dance styles, including tap, jazz, ballet, and aerial. All of those, as well as a filmed performance and some well-chosen music, kept the performance flowing smoothly and visually stimulating for its entire duration (around an hour and a half). Solo, ballet-style pieces followed energetic ensemble dances that used both the Blues Brothers and “Calabria 2008” as accompaniment. Some highlights of the first act included Maya Lee-Parritz’s “Virago,” a fabulously danced characterization-heavy piece that threw forward emotions of both strength and isolation; Ashley Nagel’s “Steal Away,” where over ten dancers seemed to create increasingly complex shapes and movements to trap the character struggling to escape; and “Remember,” a dance that was preceded by an homage to several Holocaust victims and continued that theme throughout the piece. Overall, the individual performances that were the most successful carried common threads, often of isolation and alienation, where the dancers did not always move and act in seamless groups but created divides and separations that spoke to some sort of narration of individual vs. group. (Or maybe that’s just my English major trying to read into everything.)

The most visually unusual performance was easily Jack Crawford’s “Untitled,” probably because nobody else used aerials. Yes, aerials as in when people dance, except a dozen feet up in the air and only using two pieces of silk rather than the ground. She shimmied and spun up and down the silk with ease and skill, inciting major props, although the audience seemed more focused on the medium of her dance than on the dance itself. The second act added more new mediums, like CoLab president Garnet Henderson’s video “Arid Echo,” a slow and somewhat meditative filmed performance in which Garnet dances in a stretch of Riverside Park. One of my favorites of the second act included Julia Discenza’s “(im)pulse,” which emphasized with its music and choreography the biological movements of the body, often concentrating on minute, detailed motions in what was almost a character study of the body. “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained,” (Amanda Groziak), while slightly clumsy in its finding-love storyline, was excellently choreographed and danced, and the final piece “Work In Progress” featured some of the catchiest street dance that had Bwog dancing in its seat ready to break it down.

The performances flew by, with only a few pieces that seemed underdeveloped or without enough structure in choreography. And even with the opportunity to see any technical mishaps or fumbles in the black box, my focus always remained on the performers’ abilities and total absorption in their dance. Like a proud parent (full disclosure: one of my friends dances in the show, although her name isn’t mentioned here), I went twice, and so each of these observations is twice-confirmed. Go this afternoon or tonight, and admire your far more talented than you peers!

Below, a series of comically bad, “intentionally blurred” iPhone pictures to further incite you to go: