By Lizzi Belmont
The lights go down, and the crowd goes still — that is, until the deep reverberations of a bow gliding across a cello string echo across the auditorium and straight into the core of the audience. And so begins Chelonia, Beloit’s annual dance performance. The first piece, a moving, environmental-conservation-based piece by Associate Dance Professor Chris Johnson, included video sculpture by Joan Truckenbrod, with lighting by Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Chuck Drury.
Featuring choreography by Johnson, Mira Treatman ’12, Vivian Chen ’12, Visiting Instructor of Dance Sarah Wolf, Jade Daugherty ’11, Liz K. Freeman ’12, guest artist Arturo German Hernandez de la Mesa, Keara Grohens ’10, Molly Steigerwald ’12, Joey Hernandez ’11, Nora Anderson ’13 and Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Gina T’ai, the show offered a variety of dance, music and delight.
Drury’s light direction greatly enhanced the dances, and the show went off seamlessly with technical direction by Assistant Technical Director Alicia Bailey and stage manager Grace Burghoff ’13. Maureen Hanzel ’13, Jon Chamberlin ’14, Sarah Eck ’11, Al Kemp, Beth Carner and Carrie Ellis ’13 rounded off the production staff, with countless scene, costume and box office staff also contributing to the show.
Throughout the show I was wowed by the shear power of each dance. Treatman’s “Dial tones” presented something that was indefinable, interesting and I couldn’t take my eyes off.
Steigerwald’s highly engrossing “carrycarrycarrycarry” offered expertly selected tunes by indie band Teengirl Fantasy, a decisively large cast, distinctive movements and magnetic facial expressions.
Daugherty’s “continuity-equation” also provided an inimitable view into the exceptional melding of music and movement. The dancers each brought forward a distinctive style, which left me feeling as though I knew each “character” a bit more. Hernandez de la Mesa’s “Gorilla Insects into Random Samba” treated the audience to many styles of dance, including capoeira and samba.
Hernandez’s “Closure” provided emotional depth to accompany his beautiful dancing. The incredible breadth of movement was only enhanced by Hernandez’s technical magnitude. “Fork my Life,” choreographed and performed by Chen, offered an appealing use of props and expression to the mix. Anderson’s “I/Co-the composer” presented beautiful tension and movement, with its decisive investigation of power and matchless choreography.
Lighter moments, like Freeman’s hilarious “ ‘I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself—DH Lawerence’ ” or Grohens’ beautiful solo “just this,” kept me smiling. Wolf’s bird-based “Landscapes” brought the ballet to the Chelonia, with a beautiful floor-based section and an incredible show of stamina and grace from the dancers as they dance for more than 12 minutes.
The final piece, T’ai’s “There is only one Tina,” finished the performance off with a bang — a medley of Tina Turner songs mixed with interview quotes, lip-syncing, modern and Turner-like dancing, and of course cross-dressing provided the perfect finale to an already exuberant show. The audience was prompted to cat-call, and boy did they yell as each dancer seductively took Turner’s music and T’ai’s choreography to their pinnacle of greatness.
Every dance offered an entirely unique and beautiful look into the mind of its creators, while never failing to entertain its viewers. As a dancer I may be a bit biased, but I don’t think that anyone would disagree — Chelonia was wonderful to watch and enchanting to experience.