Ballroom dancers suffer from stereotyping. Their chosen mode of expression may seem showy but the fact is these artists make some pretty impressive moves — often in heels, no less. Beyond Ballroom Dance Company takes it all a step further.
On Friday night at the Cowles Center the troupe used everything from the waltz to Latin dance plus a hint of burlesque and vaudeville to prove that ballroom is an evolving — and increasingly athletic — art form.
"Crossing Moon River," a world premiere directed by Deanne Michael and Lisa Vogel, traces the history of the waltz, a 250-year-old dance form once considered risqué because the partners seemed to embrace. The work begins with swirling skirts and flowing rhythmic patterns but later wanders into the territory of Martha Graham-esque contemporary movement and even some deconstructed dirty dancing.
While the piece sags during its more minimal moments and transitions between moods, what stands out is the choreographers' willingness to explore what the waltz looks and feels like when performed solo, without the benefit of a partner. The 10 dancers are in sync with one another from beginning to end, even as they move in response to their own inner rhythms.
Guest artists Andrew Winett of Las Vegas and Tsha Marie (a Minnesota native now based in San Diego) turn up the heat onstage with "He Said … She Said …" Both are professional ballroom dance champs and their Latin dance-influenced choreography is as sharp, sexy and witty as one would expect from performers of their caliber. The 11-member ensemble enhances the vibrant energy, which plays off all the comic possibilities presented by a drunken dream.
The program concludes on a high note with "Red Riding Hood Suite" (2010), directed by the dynamic duo of Sossy Mechanics (Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan). This take on the fairy tale plays out more like a Looney Tunes revenge fantasy, which is a very good thing if you enjoy hearty belly laughs. Jay Larson's Wolf works his wily con especially as he shimmies to Jack White's raucous song "I'm Shakin'." But it turns out Red (Michael) and Grandma (Julie Jacobson) are far more than he bargained for.
In true Sossy Mechanics style the choreography melds fast-paced and stylish partner dancing with playful antics, stage fighting and, in this case, even a fresh feminist twist.
Caroline Palmer writes about dance.