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Our 'Dancing Neighbors' Make Their Mark

Published: Friday, February 6, 2009

Updated: Saturday, March 14, 2009 17:03

Monologues expressed through motion. Sound, emotion, and music explained through dance. The choreographers, performers and musicians of "Dancing Neighbors" are working to revitalize dance.

A showcase of local artists and dancers in a benefit for the UVM dance program, "Dancing Neighbors," challenged common ideas of what it means to watch dance as it happens on the stage.

Every dance contained an idea, concept, or method of performance that made it unique.

In a piece titled "Trash," which was choreographed and performed by Tiffany Rhynard, the audience watched her dance and sing in a white pantsuit and a pair of headphones.

Futuristic electronica played on the loudspeakers, but Rhynard was dancing to completely different music than the audience could hear. In the middle of this piece, bags of trash began to fly on the stage from the wings.

In another piece, a woman danced as she described her childhood desire to be a woman: craving high heels, miniskirts, and lipstick - "the works." This often hilarious story was as much acting as it was dance.

One piece involved African dance and hip-hop, while another used both guttural noises and Bach as background music. Daring and provocative, some women lost their sweatpants and danced in their underwear.

These are descriptions of only some of the memorable moments from "Dancing Neighbors."

Dancing performances are usually considered a formal affair, but it was this event's casual nature that made it distinctive.

Many of the performers addressed the audience directly. In the piece "Trash," Rhynard even asked the audience if they would like to help clean up the stage, which they did.

During the question and answer session, one woman in the audience felt comfortable enough to say, "You're all a bunch of freaks. But in a good way."

This showcase wasn't about who had attended the best conservatories or taken the most professional classes, but rather about creating a distinct experience and work of art.

"I believe when we dance, we make something happen," Clare Byrne said, who choreographed and performed a piece called "The Body is the Hearth" with Sharon Estacio. "I don't always know what that is," Byrne said.

As is often the problem with modern dance, a few pieces seemed to overshoot their mark at times. These pieces left the audience confused and questioning their purpose. Were they just to be different?

Every moment that seemed a little extreme was matched or outnumbered by moments that were poignant and well-crafted. When the next original choreography event is on in April, one would be wise to snag a seat.

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