“An Invitation” From Amherst and Mount Holyoke Dance

Last weekend, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College Dance Departments presented their Fall Faculty Dance Concert. Eren Levine ’24 reviews the performances, reflecting on each piece’s individuality.

“An Invitation” From Amherst and Mount Holyoke Dance
Last weekend, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College Dance Departments presented their Fall Faculty Dance Concert. Costumes by Carla Foeberg, Emily Hoem, and Brenna Kaplan-Keshguerian. Lighting by Matthew Adelson. Photo courtesy of Peter Raper.

On Nov. 10 to 12, Mount Holyoke College’s Department of Dance hosted this year’s Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges Faculty Dance Concert.  The event, titled “An Invitation,” featured six unique, thought-provoking pieces performed by Five College dancers, and choreography by Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College faculty and guest artist Passion Fruit Dance Company.

The first piece in the show, “Field,” explored conceptions of space, relationships within spaces, and malleable environments. The performance radiated cohesion, and even when the dancers were not actively touching one another, there was a strong sense of interconnectedness between them. The program note about the piece says, “[The director and dancers] encourage you to allow your mind to wonder, want, and track,” and I definitely felt that this sentiment shone through. During prolonged moments without music, it was entrancing to focus solely on the movement onstage and how united the dancers were. The dance ended in the same position it started in — two dancers facing the curtain, holding their arms out toward it — which gave the piece a full-circle feeling and allowed the audience to reflect on the time spent between the two mirror-image moments.

The mood shifted to a lighter and brighter feeling with “Puzzle Pieces,” featuring many Amherst College dancers. This dance included 13 performers, and during most of the performance, all of them were on the stage, often each doing different things. Some dancers were working their way across the stage, while others executed complex moves in fixed locations on stage. This assortment of movements gave the piece a fast-paced feeling, but somehow, it still felt like I would not have gotten the full picture if I hadn’t seen everything all at once. The title “Puzzle Pieces” reflects the performance well: Each dancer was unique in their movements, yet everything fit together seamlessly.

The third piece, “Brink,” was all about dreaming and featured performers talking as well as dancing. The description of the piece states, “[The choreographer and dancers] enacted dreams to move together towards the impossible.” A single sentence could not encapsulate this piece any better. The dancers were completely in sync and appeared to be moving as one. The use of lighting highlighted the incredible talents of individual dancers, including various lifts and tricks that were impressive to watch. The featured dialogue in the piece helped engage the audience and even led to laughter from the audience at times. When the piece came to a close, I overheard someone in a nearby seat remark, “The audience was encouraged to laugh,” a comment that perfectly describes the welcoming and intriguing nature of the dance.

The number right before intermission, “The Extensions of Me: Perspective,” began with a thought-provoking slam poetry piece titled “Perspective.” Once the dancing began, it was clear that the performers were supporting each other, working off of each other’s energy, and embracing the upbeat, hip-hop vibe of the piece. There was also a solo in the middle of the performance by the choreographer Djeffrey Jean-Phillipe, done to a reading of the poem “Who Gives a Black Man Permission to Feel?” by Preston Perry. The first line in the poem stuck out as particularly moving, stating, “This is not an angry Black poem, though I am angry, and I am Black. This is more of a cry for all the Black men who were never given permission to cry.” This solo, in addition to the dance as a whole, was empowering and provided an incisive commentary on the world we live in.

After I returned from intermission, the event burst back into dance with a multimedia performance titled “Snow/Migrants” that commented on themes about climate change. The piece used props, including lifejackets and a full-sized kayak, to emphasize concern about the global climate crisis. There was also a video playing in the background throughout the piece, depicting glaciers, oceans, and other climate-related natural landscapes. The combination of all these factors created an engaging performance that truly made me reflect on the precarious state of the natural world. The description of this piece notes how “most of us feel overwhelmed by the implications of climate change and issues surrounding migration.” This was aptly depicted in the performance through sudden changes in the pace — from slow to fast and then back to slow — all paired with an intense violin playing in the background. I also noted an especially impactful moment, when one of the dancers was buried in life jackets, which again emphasized the feeling of being overwhelmed by global crises.

The final dance in the show, “Connection,” was this year’s guest artist repertory project, choreographed by Tatiana Desardouin of Passion Fruit Dance Company. The performance was lively and featured many talented dancers engaging in solos and dancing small group parts in addition to as a whole group. The piece is described as “[emphasizing] the importance of creating connections first within, then with the world.” The close connection between the performers was palpable, and it was clear that they were all supporting each other and having a good time on stage. This connection also extended to the audience, as the energy in the theater was uplifting and positive. For a show that seemed to highlight various modes of connections in all of its pieces, this final number was an excellent way to close out the night.

“An Invitation” is one of three Fall Five College Dance concerts. This semester’s last performance will be the Smith College Faculty Concert, presented Nov. 17-19.