NORMAN — A lot happened in less than two hours, with music ranging from the “apocalyptical” and “antiphonal” to the classic, and subjects ranging from stages of grief to a robot love story, in a University of Oklahoma dance recital.
The intense, ensemble-driven Contemporary Dance Oklahoma program of works by OU’s Austin Hartel and Derrick Minter and guest choreographer Jessica Lang was staged Friday at Rupel J. Jones Theatre.
A celebration of the male gender opened the show, with five statuesque men in form-fitting, camouflage-like leotards turning drawings of men’s heads and a large on-stage sculpture by Sohail Shehada into “Portraits in Motion.” Omar Humphrey, Kiosh Monroe, Xavier Santafield, Tyrone Speller and Henry Trinh gave an energetic performance in the “Radar: Portraits in Motion” number, choreographed by Minter to a powerful, percussive, original composition by Barry Harwood.
Smoke effects and overhead spotlights gave a ritual feeling to “Radar,” making it contrast nicely with the austerity of the second number, “Tears for Maria,” choreographed by Hartel to the music of Apocalyptica. Expressing stages of grief in abstract yet evocative terms in “Tears for Maria” was a large female ensemble, crawling as well as dancing on the bare stage, led by the near-contortionist movements of Emma Sadler.
Combining sculptural and performance elements well, but wacky and witty rather than awe-inspiring, was the evening’s third work, “Network 1,” choreographed by Hartel to original percussion music by Scott Bennett. Performers wearing vivid red outfits and sculptural capes, bras, headgear and other objects performed on a circular stairway, with a platform top, under an abstract sculpture with long pieces of hanging fabric, in “Network.”
“Network” reached a comic climax when a round-bodied, turquoise-hued female robot, with red lips and a pearl necklace, tried to entice a silvery cubistic male robot by linking up, clumsily, with his long, shiny, tubular arms.
Viewed as a whole, the program did a fine job of showcasing the work of scenic designers Shehada and Dayin Boyd, costume designers Yen Dao, Chloe Mullin and Stephanie Orr, and the choreographers and dancers. Challenging as well as entertaining, and balancing the futuristic and modern with the classical, the production is highly recommended during the rest of its run.
— John Brandenburg,
for The Oklahoman
Contemporary Dance Oklahoma
•Where: Rupel J. Jones Theatre, 563 Elm Ave., Norman.
•When: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
•Tickets: $22 for adults; $18 for senior citizens, OU faculty-staff and members of the military; and $14 for students.