8&1 Dance Company made a splash Friday night in front of a full house at its inaugural performance held at the Courtyard Theater in Plano.
In Life’s Canvas 8&1 Dance Co. founder and choreographer Jill S. Rucci put together a program that introduced her eight-member company and guest dancer’s technique, athleticism and versatility. The performance also showcased Rucci’s multi-layered choreography as well her taste for contemporary music (i.e. Adele, Florence + the Machine, Gnarls Barkley) and the blues (Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin).
The show started with a monologue performed by Stephanie Dolph about painting outside the lines in the premiere of Finger Painting. Then, accompanied by vocalist Christa D. Taylor and saxophonist Marcellus P. Walker, one-by-one the dancers emerged from the wings dressed in white and each wielding a different colored streamer (the type used by rhythmic gymnasts). As the dancers swooped, dipped, lunged and jumped they manipulated the streamers in the air, giving the audience the illusion they were painting on the stark white background.
A Round Corner (2006) allowed the ladies to show off their sassy jazz technique in vibrantly colored dresses while the men performed macho solos focusing on their leaps, turns and acrobatics.
The premieres of Nevermind and Woman’s Work (choreographed by Michael Mayes) were softer more lyrical pieces. In Nevermind Shelby A. Stanley performed an aggressively controlled solo before removing her white T-shirt to reveal the bright blue top and bottom underneath. Stanley moved passionately and uninhibited, making her appear longer and taller than she actually is. The spectacular background image of brilliant blues, green and reds swirled together also got a reaction from the crowd.
The second half of the show contrasted sharply from the first with Pointillism (2010) and Work Song (2002). All the bold colored costumes were replaced with neutral whites, nudes and browns. The movement was predominantly African, featuring stomping, clapping, and waving, with some liturgical and ballet steps mixed in and music shifting abruptly from Nina Simone to the Zac Brown Band to the Soweto Gospel Choir. The concept appeared to be intended to display the company’s versatility, as the transition got a bit lost in translation thematically.
But from the performance aspect 8&1 Dance Co. obviously has a diverse but cohesive unit made up of powerful technicians who should be an exciting addition to the DFW dance scene.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com.