From Robert Ivey’s cotton candy tutus to Sideways Contemporary Dance Company’s topless men, Piccolo’s Dance at Noon Series was a feast for the eyes.
The Dancentre South Company from Georgia, a returning series favorite, provided audience members with a vast array of dance styles on June 1. Dancers in red dresses and white tights started the show with a classical ballet performance. With at least 16 dancers on the stage, graceful moves were received with enthusiastic clapping from a packed house. Soon after, flashing lights and ’70s tunes transformed the stage from classical to disco with a sexy one-woman show. The unexpected switch-up set the tone for the remainder of the fast-paced show.
A new style was introduced with each segment; from showgirls to earth mamas, there was tension between music and dance, as if the dancers were blank slates being written on and changed by each song. On the downside, dancers wore distracting, teeth-baring smiles during the more formal dances, which made them appear cartoonish. The variety of styles kept the audience interested and excited to see what came next, but with 12 different segments, it also began to feel ADD-ish.
Unfortunately, Charleston’s own Robert Ivey Ballet was not as impressive. The June 3 performance featured dancers who looked like and had the same effects as candy: sweet but unfulfilling. The solid choreography and graceful performances were not enough to make up for the awkward transitions (closing the curtains and turning on the lights between every dance) and music flubs. The theater was full for the local performers, but the supportive audience began to get restless with the continued curtain closings. With nine routines, a variety of styles were represented, and some were definitely stronger than others.
A Rockette-style dance received the most enthusiastic applause, and a modern, athletic performance included more interesting choreography. Overall, the performances were uneven — some solid and on-mark with lovely costumes, while others, such as Remembrance (choreographed by Ivey himself) veered off. The applause felt more polite than enthusiastic. Loss of Innocence was a lovely arrangement of adorable young dancers and would have been a sweet ending, but the show continued on (10 minutes over time) with “Grand Tarantella,” an Italian folk dance. The auditorium was filled with the clapping and clanging of tambourines as dancers high-stepped their way across the stage in over-the-top folksy costumes.
On June 4, Sideways Contemporary Dance Company set itself apart from the others with the inclusion of narration. Narrative poetry was spoken in a husky voice (spoken word artist Lady Vee DaPoet) introducing each new routine, allowing for a fluid transition of styles. Sideways dancers moved swiftly, with a selection of contemporary music including Lady Gaga and Lifehouse. A smaller troupe of strong, athletic dancers performed well-executed movements in a fluid style. One dance blended into the next with the narration as a segue.
The bodies of the dancers told a story about relationships while poetry spoke of “the rhythms of hope.” The music was a perfect compliment and spoke directly to the moves. For example, in “Mad World,“ Lady Vee spoke of “cold, concrete steps” and preparing to “soldier on.” Dancers’ movements were jerky and broken, revealing beauty in ugly movements. “First Love” was a particularly powerful routine with a compelling storyline told by the physical push and pull of two bodies.
A final piece began with a video splashed against the theater walls, and the dancers returned wearing black and white outfits and sunglasses. The music was loud and two older audience members left the theater. Thankfully the music came to an end (the only negative in a selection of positive music choices), and the dancers kept moving; all you could hear was their breathing and their feet lightly touching the floor, which created an intimate feeling.