Without Shoes with creativity.
By Sue Langenberg
Without Shoes Modern Dance Company presented a spring program at Rockford College Friday evening. The dance company performed to composers Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and selections from the Beatles in a theme of “life, love and flowers…”
Though the event was sparsely attended, Maddox Theatre at the college always proves a marvelous venue to view a dance program because the rows are steeply raked, allowing what seems no bad seat in the house. ‘Without Shoes’ has provided an alternative contemporary form of movement since the ’80s and often associates its activities with the college.
Artistic and choreographic director Maria Castello is an area force of creativity in this small company as well as Rockford Dance Company, giving local dancers (including Freeport) a chance to educate and perform in an energized environment. Friday evening’s performance was again a display of her passion to take dance beyond a few steps and some taped music. As always, she brings the real marriage between dance and live music to tell a story in a style that few have the opportunity to observe.
Company members include familiar Rockford dancer Margaret Rennerfeldt, Victoria Rusin, Steven Saunders, Amanda Sisney and Castello herself. They performed here and there in the retro feeling of some Beatle songs arranged for drums (Edward Bogdonas), guitar (Brian Pickett), piano (Bob Rub), Bass (Dave Timmcke) and flute (Jacques Saint-Cyr). Most spirited was “Penny Lane,” an all rippling piano arrangement featuring a nostalgic and more innocent frolic back in the day.
Other Beatles dances gave beginners, “Without Shoes Youth Dancers,” a chance to learn and hone their performance skills with an ensemble of musicians behind them. The aspiring dancers included Katarina Benson, Sophie Benson, Emma Fredrickson, Josh Robinson and M. E. Stravinskas. Though admirable to have Fab Four arrangements to dance to, the resulting effect at times bordered on a more watered down and synthetic musak, or elevator music.
Second act Samuel Barber selection for “Adagio,” featured four company dancers in a movingly pensive piece that couldn’t help but take you away, far away. Castello used this music to exercise a contrapuntal effect, or when the music seems to slowly progress while the tempo of the dancers seems unrelated, though it all makes perfect sense at the time.
Two pieces of Castello’s native Argentine flavor featured youthful dancers and pas de deux tango Castello and Saint-Cyr. The moody and sensual steps were accompanied by harpist Nanette Felix who also handily contributed to the visual appeal. Further in the tango theme, the Music Academy of Rockford College directed by Rachel Handlin performed clever and dramatic maneuvers while playing strings. The results were notable and another example that Castello is not afraid to experiment with the dynamics of music and dance.
Last piece to Copland delivered a lyrical ode featuring several company members. Ladies Rusin and Sisney were quite pleasant to behold, while male member Saunders showcased a quite natural buoyancy and raw talent that needs some serious training to groom his technical proficiency.