The Dance Department hit the stage running in Person Theatre with two intensely energized performances from the dancers dealing with many current political topics – some recent, and others that go back centuries, for their annual Spring showcase.
The opening piece, “White Picket Fences,” Choreographed by Courtney J. Cook, Marjani Forté-Saunders and Love Muwwakkil in collaboration with the performers, is notable too includes choreography by the Urban Bush Women. For seven weeks, the collective has been in residency at Sonoma State: three in the fall and four in the spring. Christine Cali, a assistant professor of dance, recalled her experience with the troupe as a “two-decade long love for the Brooklyn-based dance company’s work,” as she first saw them in 1995 when she was an undergraduate student at Ohio University.
In the piece, the performers move against a backdrop of the titular white fence. The dance moves are both flowing and energized, recognizable as a modern and hip-hop style. As the movement on stage continues, text on the backdrop begins to appear, highlighting both history and the feeling of the mythology behind the white picket fence in American consciousness – or more accurately, what was cruelly forced onto already marginalized communities in the 1950’s in order to keep the white picket fence white.
The costume choices are as always far from coincidental, as the constant red lines in the performer's clothes helps reflect the Federal Government’s practice of Redlining: refusing people loan money to pay for a house in the suburbs because the area they lived in, usually predominantly black neighborhoods, marked them as a financial risk. This culminates in some very impressive dancework, while the backdrop slowly shifts to show just how artificial the construct of the white picket fence is.
After a short break, the second piece, “Anchored,” choreographed by Christine Cali and Kristen Daley in collaboration with the performers, opened with a short monologue by one the performers reciting the lyrics of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 number one radio hit, “Baby Got Back,” with a vocal performance by Danna Friedman far more inquisitive than the original recordings. “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” Friedman said in a curious tone as the audience laughed.
The dances were very well choreographed, showing a excellent motion control, especially in one particularly memorable scene where the performers ran back and forth on stage like cogs in a machine, some occasionally stopping and stuttering in place before resuming. These stutterings began to increase in frequency until finally all the performers stood in a line, moving to face the audience, probing them with questions. “Are you listening?” one perform asked. “We will not be silenced,” another added. “No,” another simply stated.
“‘Anchored’ employs text, music and movement to interrogate and examine ideas around ‘resistance,’ ‘language,’ and ‘power,’ while responding and reflecting on current social issues,” said Daley. “The dancers’ ideas and voices are the anchor of this dance…[they] support, stabilize and secure each other throughput this dance, not just physically but through a kinetic, embodies, and energetic translation.”
The pieces were well received, as the audience loudly applauded the performances. “It was incredibly rewarding and transformational to work with the Urban Bush Women.” said Daley.
The shows incredible talent doesn't stop at the performers and the choreographers, as the costumes were well-selected, the music evoked feeling where they most needed it, and the light and projection work suited the pieces perfectly. Overall, the Spring Dance show moves the audience as much as it does the performers.