Annual BU dance showcase is mesmerizing

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because, yes, it’s another busy weekend for the arts in Broome County, our reviewer attended the final dress rehearsal of Cosmogony.

Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri

Ten talented dancers, students in the Binghamton Theatre Department, will take the stage this weekend (April 12-14) during Cosmogony, B.U.’s  annual dance show. In groups of two, three, four and more, they will commune in ways that, at times, defy gravity but always define grace, coordination, super core strength and physical transcendence of the ordinary. They also will convey sadness, joy, jealousy, sprightliness and humor … without saying a word.

 Shown in this Joshua B Ludzki photo: Erin Murphy and Saihou Sissoho

Shown in this Joshua B Ludzki photo: Erin Murphy and Saihou Sissoho

With a blend of barefoot ballet, modern, jazz and even one astonishing tap number, the program transfixed this reviewer from beginning to end. Sitting in the practically empty Osterhout Theatre of the Anderson Center on campus for the nearly flawless tech rehearsal Wednesday night (April 10), I felt beyond privileged. At the end of the performance, which runs just about an hour and a half, I could barely speak to thank the director for letting me sit in. I just nodded and said, “I gotta go,” but I think she could tell I was moved.

Cosmogony is any scientific theory concerning the coming into existence (or the origin) of either the cosmos or the universe, or the so-called reality of sentient beings. The sentient beings in this troupe perform a fantastic series of dances, directed and choreographed by the brilliant JoEllen Kuhlman, She is a young woman with an infectious smile, who could be anyone you might see on the street, but will, I reckon, some day be as celebrated a choreographer as Twyla Tharp or Bob Fosse.

I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched her dancers wordlessly move from one dance to the next, just how in the world these kids were able to pull it off. But then, I remembered: They were rendering a representation of the four elements of classical mythology in this order: earth, water, fire and air. Since the dawn of time, these four elements have existed together in a synchronicity of beauty and harmony. The dancers reminded me of a flock of birds that circle forever in each others’ wakes.

Deedi Boland, Nicole Dlug, Jared Douglas, Rebecca Evans, Katherine Leenig, Doug Mackay, Erin Murphy, Shelby Reller, Saihou Sissoho and Imani Williams performed to recordings by the Hawaiian-born producer Drehz. His music lends continuity to the show and is perfectly chosen for 13 of the 15 dances. He even does something to the only easily recognizable tune, U2’s With or Without You, that makes you work to pick it up but smile when you get it It’s perfect for a particular duet.

While everyone in the show gives 100 percent, and it’s definitely an ensemble performance, it’s easy to tell who the star is. When the theater is full this weekend, and the last man, Saihou Sissoho, sprints out to take a bow, he will leave an indelible imprint in your memory. He moves in ways that are almost superhuman in their speed and grace, even while performing in the robotic “Machine Routine” with Jared Douglas and Doug Mackay.

I love the simple, evocative costumes and props, from the flowing butterfly wings to the strips of fabric suspended between, around and constantly moving with the dancers in the last piece with the whole company. It reminded me of an unraveling sweater, or a life-sized game of cat’s cradle.

IF YOU GO: Performances of Cosmogony are at 8 p.m. today (April 12) and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 (faculty/staff/seniors, $8; students, $6). Call 777-ARTS or visit anderson.binghamton.edu.

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