Sunday afternoon at University of Missouri Kansas City’s White Recital Hall, Owen/Cox Dance Group presented two spirited works, both set to music by German composers and accompanied live by pianist Kairy Koshoeva.
The bill of the program Ludus Tonalis featured music from Paul Hindemith, who, born at the end of the 1800s, was considered to be a master of 20th century counterpoint. When the company first premiered the piece in 2015 it only included 20 of the 25 movements, but this weekend’s version encompassed the entire composition. Latin for play or game of tones, Ludus Tonalis alternated between fugues and interludes, with a prelude and postlude serving as bookends.
The constant variety of moods and melodies allowed the dancers to try on different personalities, from silly, to somber and somewhere in-between. Kansas City Ballet dancers Joshua Bodden, Whitney Huell, and Taryn Mejia comfortably connected with one another and committed to the quirky choreography in “Fuga in G.” Three cohabiting couples demonstrated slow-motion partnering in “Fuga in F.”
Caroline Dahm exhibited a rich, expansive movement quality in “Interludium Secundum.” She and Christopher Page-Sanders displayed striking dynamics including powerful cissones in “Interludium Decimum.” Dancer Ivan Braatz exhibited effortless buoyancy and an arresting stage presence. The finale “Postludium” was a retrograde of the opening movement “Praeludium.” Reversing dance is difficult and time-intensive, but also rewarding to come full circle.
The hour-long work proved to be a big undertaking for artistic director Jennifer Owen, and the outcome, though commendable, was predominantly mediocre. The transitions felt choppy, some of the choreography appeared awkward, and the overall effect was repetitive and monotonous in contrast with the ever-changing musical melodies. In addition, exhaustion shone on many of the dancers’ faces.
Luckily, the ensemble had evident energy in the world premiere of Carnaval, set to Robert Schumann’s 21-piece composition of the same name. Carnaval shared some similarities to Ludus Tonalis, but was more succinct and engaging. The octet, who represented storied figures donned in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, yellow, and purple, entered one at a time then formed into four couples. The dancers aptly portrayed their designated characters; Michael Davis imitated the pantomime Pierrot, while Dahm proved fierce and flirty in “Coquette,” and Huell, Mejia, and Emily Mushinski mimicked excitable puppies in “Papillons.” Other highlights included Bodden’s perfectly placed solo “Florestan” and Braatz’s light and playful “Arlequin.” Unfortunately, the dancers struggled with synchronicity as an ensemble.
For Carnaval, Owen inventively combined multiple dance styles and vocabularies, employing particular moves, such as attitude and temps de flèche, often to create recognizable themes. “Pause and Marche des Davidsbundler contre les Philisins” incorporated court and folk steps, including the polonaise and mazurka. Owen also utilized the musical accents, which was even more enjoyable with Koshoeva’s brilliant live accompaniment.
The costumes for both works (designed by Hollie Hermès for Carnaval and Lisa Choules for Ludus Tonalis) were appropriate and appealing. However, Nicole Jaja’s lighting design was often on the dark side.
Owen/Cox Dance Group
Sunday, June 10, 2018
White Recital Hall, University of Missouri Kansas City
For more information, visit http://www.owencoxdance.org/
Owen Cox Dance Group: “Carnaval.‘ Tiffany Matson Photography.