OU spring modern dance program offers mix of elegance, playfulness

OU spring modern dance recital was choreographed by Derrick Minter, Austin Hartel and guest artist Donald McKayle.
BY JOHN BRANDENBURG For The Oklahoman Modified: April 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013
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Interacting with them were Savannah Hawkins in an offbeat black-and-white outfit, as well as Casey Coy and Kathleen McKenna, wearing very little, like some kind of futuristic Mr. and Mrs. America.

Adding to the impact of the company's bizarre movements in “Working Flesh” were an abstract overhead light sculpture, plus multiple kaleidoscopic, polluted factory and other projections on giant screens.

Topping this tour de force in some ways was the sheer joy of running and gesturing figures, with hair flying, in “Tethered,” Hartel's carefree celebration of rock music by the Allman Brothers, David Essex and Ted Nugent. More serious, but equally celebratory, were three excerpts from the “Songs of the Disinherited,” which premiered in 1972 in Los Angeles, and was re-created at OU by guest artist McKayle (assisted by Stephanie Powell).

Omar Humphrey and Kiosh Monroe flexed their muscles as men working in faded denim “Upon the Mountain” in the first part of “Disinherited,” while Emily Jo Haenny danced with expressive abandon in “Angelitos Negros.”

Ending the program on an upbeat note, indeed, was the entire company, as it used the wild movements of its entire bodies to express the sheer joy of “Shaker Life,” in the final excerpt from McKayle's creation. The “Contemporary Dance Oklahoma” production is highly recommended during its remaining performances.

— John Brandenburg