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EMAV Review: UNLV Dance's 'Migrating Motion' gracefully tackles lofty themes ★★★★

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

★★★★☆ - Delicious

In the world of dance movement is language, and UNLV Dance's student choreographers proved to be exceptional storytellers with their thoughtful fall concert "Migrating Motion." Thirteen young artists showcased perceptive and mature works created around ideas about lucid dreams, the beating heart, and dystopian despair.

On Sunday afternoon the production didn't run as smoothly as maybe it could. There were delays between numbers to seat latecomers and presumably for costume changes. The long waits detracted from the flow, momentum, and sense of cohesion to the show, though the receptive audience didn't seem bothered a bit.

The achingly pretty "A Human Reaction," choreographed by Kaitlyn Marcus to "Lili's Death" by Alexandre Desplat, is an ethereal meditation on fear. Six girls in swirling blue skirts sway to plaintive piano keys. They hesitate then push forward, reach and lift each other to rise above crippling emotion. From a circle of fortification they cast fear behind them with sweeping arms and arched backs.

"Duende" choreographed by Chanta Payne to "Vacant" by Lost is about the wordless language of dance. Atmospheric and jazzy with jetes and purposeful walks, it's a showpiece for good dancers who weren't always in sync.

A horrifying, post apocalyptic world awaits in "The Theory of Survival..." choreographed by Dakota Miller to the probably prescient "Dead Flag Blues" by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. A disconnected voice describes devastation and collapse, and the piece questions whether it's worth it to be alive in such a mess. Bathed in dark blue lighting, dancers representing the bewildered masses seem to be sleepwalking in a nightmare dream. They lunge deeply, crouch together desperately, and hold their heads and hearts in disbelief.

"Fracturing Framework" choreographed by Dannii Moore to "Runaway" by Ryn Weaver, is a female power number featuring aesthetic stage pictures under velvety lights, with six girls in wine colored leotards whose feminine looks belie their strength. The dynamic ensemble perform defiant floor work and mirror in pairs to assert their equality.

Unity and connection shape "Continuum," choreographed by Mandie Evans to 22(OVER SOON) by Bon Iver. Dancers sit one in front of the other and grasp each other's head in silence. They move dramatically in unison and in wave like, sequential motions, and there's a feeling of yearning to their gestures which speaks to the importance of touch.

"A Voice" choreographed by Georgia Cotsis to "So Cold" by Ben Clocks is an emotional trio about independence as energy. Two ballerina girls and one boy move in changing pairings and lifts, joining together in jerking movements of grasping and embracing.

The challenging "Brain Waves," choreographed by Kristina Hakobyan to a mix including Hans Zimmer, is a cerebral piece about the mysteries of the mind. With an urban feel different combinations of dancers use the entire space, moving in complex patterns and lines, while others watch and wait on the sides.

"Noctambulation" choreographed by Shaquida Vergo to "Coraline Theme/Dreaming" by Bruno Coulais, is a whimsically weird look at lucid dreaming. Four darkly lit girls with tribal faces yawn and writhe on the floor with percussive, animated movements.

The mournful "Forward" choreographed by Keanna Corley to a mix including Vince Staples, is a dramatic piece with an apocalyptic feel. Under dark lighting and in juxtaposition of weakness versus strength, three men drag women by their arms on the floor. They sway, pair dance, tremble, and push against the challenges of life.

"An Unstable Nucleus" choreographed by Jayden McCree to "Asht" by Nebulo is a visually striking piece featuring two athletic girls moving percussively as negative and positive particles that must bind together. Their chemistry is palpable as they ultimately embrace like the pieces of an interlocking puzzle.

Women as elixirs informs the busy, complicated "Heavy Heart, Heavy Water," choreographed by Lucinda Luevanos to "Barcelona" by Henry Green. Girls in veils and lacy dresses make slow, isolated movements at first seated in a circle and then open out into vibrating motions to a rapid fire beat, with beautiful, assertive dancing.

"Subconscious Realities" choreographed by Lonnie Chaney III to a mix with philosopher Alan Watts in voiceover, speaks about shaping our dreams. It opens with the disturbing image of four people seated in a circle like hostages with hoods over their heads. They tear off the hoods and jackets as if to rip off the chains of society and constraints of anxiety.

The emotionally stirring "Movement from an Open Heart" choreographed by Malik Gray to "Red Dust and Red Dust" by James Vincent McMorrow is a piece about a wounded heart. Bathed in blood red lights, performers make isolated movements to the sounds of a heartbeat as a woman in voiceover describes the open heart surgery of her child. Poignant, expressive dancing featuring the wonderful Lonnie Chaney III explains that we are not alone.

Though the production overall was choppy, individual pieces made profound statements about the here and now.

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