Gotta dance

Sue Pate’s annual Dance Theatre Fall Showcase promises to engage a wild variety of styles

ALL THAT JAZZ Hip-hop, ballet, jazz, modern, tap and ballroom styles of dance will all be on display at this year’s Fall Showcase in the Harlen Adams Theatre.

ALL THAT JAZZ Hip-hop, ballet, jazz, modern, tap and ballroom styles of dance will all be on display at this year’s Fall Showcase in the Harlen Adams Theatre.

photo by Jeff Teeter

Despite Chico State’s having dropped its Dance Department years ago, the “gotta dance” urge has remained strong both in the community and at the university, where Sue Pate’s annual Chico Dance Theatre Showcases have become reliable, crowd-pleasing successes.

In a sense, the showcases have been delightfully inclusive and democratic affairs, with a variety of different groups joining in and dances choreographed, costumed, and lit by the students themselves. At the same time, however, I have found certain of the productions mildly off-putting, in part because of the basic similarity of many numbers (to a jazz/funk beat, a few dancers trickle in from the sides, do their thing, and then are joined by lots of dancers streaming in from the sides to do something similar); and in part because the raucous whooping and name-shouting coming from friends in the audience tend to reduce potentially distinctive numbers to an undifferentiated bread-and-circuses mish-mash.

So, when I ran into Julie Cosenza and Danielle Clements, two of this coming weekend’s choreographers, a few days ago, I was eager to ask them about the show, and they were eager to talk.

The two told me that they had high hopes for this production, that they felt the dancers who had applied to participate were definitely up a level from those in previous shows, that several strong male dancers, especially Matt Bartlett, had joined in, and that the different sorts of dances being performed had been considerably widened and would thus add greater texture and theatricality to this year’s production.

Cosenza was particularly excited by a work she had choreographed, called “World War II.” It was, she said, much more mime than dance—a serious, evocative piece set to, among other things, Mozart’s Requiem.

Clements discussed a work she had designed called “Silence.” She said that she and other choreographers were paying increased attention to “shaping,” that aspect of dance that concentrates on those moments when bodies or groups of bodies are positioned with regard to one another so as to create brief, striking, tableau-like effects. She also looked forward to the lifts and other more rigorously physical aspects of her dance.

The two spoke eagerly of Sue Pate’s Martha Graham-like “Wayfaring Stranger” and the stage forest through which the work’s protagonists struggle to work their way. They also mentioned Emma Jessee and Beau Scarborough’s “Ballroom Through the Ages,” with its condensed history of American dance, and Ryane Salked’s Balanchine-influenced “Den of Iniquity,” a more nearly classical ballet set to Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and pitting good-guy angels against bad-guy devils.

So it looks like a promising event, including the works mentioned above, as well as the usual jazz/funk/hip-hop numbers and dancers as diverse as tappers, CSU cheerleaders, Irish reelers, cowboys and cowgirls, seducer-vamps and, of course, large opening and closing production numbers.

I guess I’ll have to dust off my aged dancing shoes. See you there—with yours.