Dallas — Amidst the increasing conversations surrounding women’s leadership in dance, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Dance Ensemble provides its contribution with their first faculty concert solely choreographed by women. Celebrating Women’s Voices delivers three uplifting works at the Bob Hope Theatre on the SMU campus. The bill includes fewer dances than is typical in a collegiate mixed repertoire program, but it allows the dancers to truly shine with precision execution and admirable stage presence. Another common theme throughout the three pieces is the deliberate timing dynamics that let audience members enjoy and savor leisurely shapes and pristine stillness while also taking them on a thrill ride of faster-paced maneuvers.
First in the evening is Seize en Jeu by Cherylyn Lavagnino, a long-time faculty member of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and ballet choreographer. Set to the fourth movement of Franz Schubert’s Trio in E-Flat Major, the dance actually begins in silence as turquoise-clad ladies and men donning simple blue tops and pants move along gridlines in lovely synchronization. Lavagnino’s choreography includes repeating neo-classical motifs, such as turns en pointe with a bent supporting knee and multiple maneuvers in parallel. Some ladies don pointe shoes the entire time, while others remain in slippers.
Distinct allegros perfectly match the boisterous music, and the dancers land their jumps with lightness and ease. The three men in the performance have time in the spotlight, but overall, the ensemble and solo parts move quickly, and all dancers seem to have somewhat equal stage time. Lasting just under twenty minutes, it demonstrates the strength of Meadows’ ballet program.
The other two of the evening come from local choreographers, next up being Bridget L. Moore’s Simply, Eartha. With seven Eartha Kitt songs plus audio and video clips, the work oozes theatricality and glamour befitting the late singer’s legacy. Fourteen ladies strut around in black velvet dresses with hints of sparkle and occasionally wear a hat or hair decoration, while two black-clad men glide across the stage.
Spicy with a strong underlying groove, the choreography is still quite technical, with turns of various types and shapes that demand precision nestled among sassy hip work and luxurious leans. A solo moment with one of the dancers moving with her back to the audience provides a lovely change as her spellbinding isolations and occasional glances towards the audience nicely complement the video on the cyc. Hopefully this piece repeats in the future, with Meadows and Moore’s new company, B. Moore Dance.
The feistiest comes last with And One More Thing… by Brandi Coleman, SMU’s jazz dance artist-in-residence. An urgent, confident tension pervades the work, with smooth bursts of energy throughout. Utilizing “scat singing,” which sounds very much like the vocals that drumline members make when accentuating their rhythms, the dancers act as a musical ensemble against the simple yet dynamically diverse choreography. Four bluesy, funky tracks accompany the dancing and scatting, highlighting the overall aesthetic.
Wearing colored shirts and slim-fitting pants with black jazz shoes, they emphasize subtle shapes with their hands and heads. Although the movement isn’t as expansive as that of the previous works, they engage the audience with their impeccable timing, intense stares, and a hint of a smirk, like they’ve got an thrilling secret they’re trying to hold in.
After thunderous applause for the entire ensemble during the curtain call, at least five patrons were heard singing the last song “Tell Me Something Good” as they were leaving the building.