What comes up when you search “modern dance” in Shutterstock

Because Bwog occasionally likes to dabble in the fine arts, we sent Claire Friedman, Lord of the Dance, to check out the CoLab fall showcase this past weekend.

If I had to sum up my feelings regarding CoLab 2013 in a few words, I would probably say, “wow….wait, what?” While the dancing itself was incredible, I cannot say with 100% certainty that I understood anything that was going on. More like 30% at most, if I’m being totally honest. Chalk it up to my deeply un-artsy nature, but I spent most of the show thoroughly entertained and completely confused.

The first dance, “Contrariwise” set the mood for Act One; as a beautiful piece performed in complete silence, it simultaneously made me vaguely uncomfortable and very intrigued. Once I got over the fear that my stomach was going to make a weird noise in the so-quiet-you-could-hear-a-pin-drop auditorium, I found that the lack of music shifted the piece’s focus entirely onto the dancing. And perhaps the slight feeling of discomfort was intentional? While I’m still not completely sure of its function, the lack of music definitely made me stop and think.

In the end, though, I was hugely impressed by CoLab’s musical choices (or lack thereof). While most of the dances were to impressive and surprising mash-ups, several chose to branch out entirely; newsreels, live piano improv, videos, and complete silence all became fair game. Watching someone dance to a Bill Cosby sketch is a pretty surreal experience.

This feeling of “I don’t know what’s happening but I think I like it” became the theme of the performance as a whole. Before the end of the first act, the audience would be treated to dances where the performers were wearing fake eyebrows, having what appeared to be mini-seizures, or yelling random phrases about lunch. By the beginning of the second act, I was prepared for just about anything to happen. CoLab raised my “artistic-oddities” threshold to such a degree that I probably would have taken a troupe of dancing cats in stride.

In addition, I was blown away by the bits of improv included in CoLab’s program. While dances like “Memory” seamlessly blended improv and choreographed dance, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” was an entirely improvised tap piece. Even the accompanying piano music was improv! Danielle Deluty tapped like a pro and, perhaps even more impressively, looked like she was actually enjoying herself. Raise your hand if improv tap dancing in front of a crowd is your idea of a good time. That’s what I thought. Props to you, Danielle Deluty.

Standout performances included “Hip-Hop,” “Shake,” and “Memory,” but the show really belonged to the Act One’s “I guess I’m stuck with me.” The dance was an aerial piece, showcasing the incredible talents (and upper arm strength, jeez) of Jack Crawford, Julia Discenza, and Lilly Cutrono. These three fearless ladies made gravity look optional, spinning and sliding through the air with movements that left me feeling like an overprotective mother (“don’t you think you should be wearing a harness for that??”). For those of you who don’t know what aerial dancing is, look it up right now. For those of you who didn’t know we had the facilities for aerial dance, join the club. Also, why can’t we take aerial dance for the PE requirement? That’s what I want to know.

Overall, CoLab pushed the boundaries of what I thought dance could be. Everything from the music to the costuming to the choreography left me in awe of the talent and artsy-ness of our peers. Congrats, CoLab 2013 – I didn’t get it, but I think that might have been the point!

Really not what CoLab was like at all via Shutterstock