News Column

Spring to Dance Festival upholds reputation

May 25, 2014

By Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

May 25--Dance St. Louis' Spring to Dance Festival has become a Memorial Day weekend tradition -- and with good reason.

In just three nights, it's possible to take in dozens of dance performances in a wide range of styles.

Held on both stages of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, the festival has a reputation for excellence.

Its seventh edition was no exception.

As in past years, the Lee Theater showcased work that benefited from an intimate setting that complemented the larger-scale performances in Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall. From Thursday to Saturday, the festival presented a total of 31 companies that were as ambitious as they were captivating.

Among the highlights:

The COCA Hip-Hop Crew, resplendent in their uniforms, brought nonstop energy to the Lee stage on Thursday in an exhilarating performance that suggested a classic MTV video come to life. Without resorting to grandstanding, the Crew dazzled the crowd with the brilliance of hip-hop dance.

On Thursday in the A-B Hall, the St. Louis-based Big Muddy Dance Company turned in a delightful performance of the appropriately titled "Group Therapy."

The comic piece delivered the blend of wit, grit, elegance and attitude that fans of Big Muddy have come to expect.

In contrast, the San Francisco-based RAWdance brought a riveting intensity to "After 5:00" on Friday in the Lee Theater. Choreographed and performed by Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein, the company's co-artistic directors, the duet explored sexual dynamics with the precision of a scalpel.

That same evening on the A-B stage, another San Francisco-based company -- Amy Seiwert's Imagery -- offered a duet that was vastly different in tone but no less impressive.

Set to Jeff Buckley's recording of Leonard Cohen's iconic "Hallelujah," the piece called "It's Not a Cry" achieved an almost spiritual connection between music and movement.

The festival's final presentation, on Saturday in the A-B Hall, was arguably its best:

The Grand Rapids Ballet's "Written & Forgotten" was whimsically surreal, with the Michigan dancers cavorting among balloons while finessing a variety of ethereal yet engaging moods.

Dance is often perceived as one of the less accessible of the lively arts.

Some viewers struggle to make sense of what's happening instead of simply going with the flow.

The Spring to Dance Festival, to its credit, does a terrific job of closing the gap between apprehension and appreciation.


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

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