Dance companies display variety, skill

2012 Spoleto Festival USA Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

Over the years, dance has become increasingly complex. Not only must dancers convey emotions and thoughts through their bodies, they must be able to do this in a variety of styles at any given moment. Three visiting dance companies — Abraham.In.Motion, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and zoe | juniper — show Charleston how it’s done.

With “The Radio Show,” Abraham.In.Motion combines elements of hip-hop, modern dance and various street styles to exhibit a portrait of loss. Detailing both the demise of a radio station and the dissipating memory of his father due to Alzheimer’s disease, company founder and choreographer Kyle Abraham needs dancers with a diverse background.

“In ‘The Radio Show,’ there is a recurring theme of static, representing a loss of communication,” says A.I.M. dancer Chalvar Monteiro. “From my perspective, static can be a very strong and sometimes an overwhelming thing to encounter.

And the dancer’s responsibility is to embody a character and tell the story.

“As a performer, it’s important to be able to reference life experiences and bring your own interpretation of the work to the audience,” Monteiro said. “On stage, it translates into so much more than being a character. It becomes a playground where the possibilities are endless and the story can go as deep as you like. As an artist you can determine how much of the story is told, and having that responsibility excites me. “

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet integrates multiple dance forms, highlighting the work of emerging choreographers with a range of dance styles. Romanian born dancer, Ana-Maria Lucaciu, has been with Cedar Lake for six years and likens the managing of multiple genres to speaking different languages.

“Obviously the more versatile you are, the more tools you have at your disposal to express yourself physically,” Lucaciu said. “When you have a more extensive linguistic vocabulary, you construct thoughts more easily into sentences. When you have a richer physical vocabulary, your possibilities to express yourself are broader.”

This requires training in a variety of genres.

Candice Thompson, a professional dancer and co-founder/editor of the blog DIY Dancer, noted that with variety comes risk.

“You can never go wrong with a strong classical base. It gives you strength and technique. The problem is revering it too much. The rules you know are meant to be tested and broken. Being afraid to be ugly definitely hinders versatility and growth in any art form, but particularly in dance.”

Dance, she said, is becoming more interconnected, like everything else in the world.

“It is no longer enough to just be great at ballet or hip-hop or modern. The boundaries are blurring and the best way to make an impact as an artist is to be willing to explore the unknown,” Thompson said.

The combination of dance and multimedia may be somewhat different than what Charleston audiences are used to seeing. Both Cedar Lake and zoe | juniper are among dance companies worldwide incorporating these mediums with different genres of dance.

“It takes more of a dynamic performer and multi-dimensional show to really capture the attention of a modern day audience member,” said Sara Cart, artistic director of The Charleston Dance Project, an emerging local contemporary dance company. “It’s refreshing and eye-opening; and to be able to offer and understand a broad spectrum of styles, techniques and emotions is valued.”

“A Crack in Everything” by zoe | juniper, is a multilayered work combining choreography and video. The collaborative effort of husband-and-wife team, Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey, “A Crack in Everything” creates a world that is hard to categorize.

“It’s definitely not repertory in that the work is still being made, as we do it, before your eyes,” said Raja Kelly, a zoe | juniper dancer and former member of Abraham.In.Motion. “I haven’t yet repeated a thing and that’s my favorite part.”

He describes the group’s aesthetic as “animalistic and wiry, fierce and grotesque; with a baroque or classical sensibility.”

Christiana Axelsen, who has danced with zoe | juniper since 2005, said the company’s work combines wild abandon with classical discipline.

“I think my favorite description of zoe | juniper’s work is ‘feral ballet’,” she said. “They have a powerful animalistic language contrasted with the clarity of classical form. There is a section where Zoe and Raja (Kelly) are barking at each other like dogs while I perform a gentle adagio to Schubert. … I think zoe | juniper is interested in the full range of human potential, from what is luscious and beautiful to what is dark and violent.”

Lucaciu of Cedar Lake said dancing a diverse repertory can be particularly rewarding.

“I try to use something that I’ve learned from everyone in each piece that I dance,” she said. “I try to see how a mix of all the information that I receive can help me improve each style, and can help me become a stronger and better performer.”