The Final Hours at Sugar Space

Since creating the loveDANCEmore blog in 2010, I have shied away from writing about student work. When young artists are involved in a process of discovery alongside valued mentors, I don’t want to interrupt. But I have been there, carefully witnessing many student and faculty concerts on the Wasatch Front. About some I couldn’t help but offer my thoughts and about others I remained a happily curious observer. When watching Monica Campbell’s “The Final Hours,” at Sugar Space tonight I wavered between both feelings, having ideas to share about a well-crafted and engaging work and a desiring to insulate what was a magical experience for students. 

“The Final Hours,” was originally choreographed by Campbell as an artist-in-residence at Sugar Space in 2009. Through a new residency this year, the work has been deepened and co-presented with the Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Utah Valley University, which Campbell directs. Featuring eleven dancers spread among two casts, “The Final Hours,” explores The Hungarian Revolution in the 1950s.

Despite the inclusion of two monologues detailing experiences in Budapest related to the Soviet Occupation, a program note makes clear that the choreography will not retell the revolution through narrative. Instead the ensemble, frequently breaking into duets and trios, investigate ideas of hesitance, waiting and unrest.

Small groups weave in and out of ensemble dancing and all events take place in a sunken stage designed by Evan Ritter. Dancers can move on the perimeter, overseeing the action and adding solemnity to the often quiet moments accompanied by local percussionist Mason Aeschbacher, among others. The perimeter also periodically allows soloists to drift closer to the audience, taking advantage of the intimacy available in the warehouse theater.

It’s the space which offers a true degree of difference for UVU students. The BFA candidates typically perform works by faculty, guests and peers in a large university theater which doesn’t always simulate what their performance career might look like, particularly if they stay in town. Sugar Space bridges the divide, bringing the work of teaching artists like Campbell to a more public space and moving students into a shared community where they may work in the future.

In relationship to those ideas, the combined efforts of Campbell, Sugar Space and UVU allow for an effective use of resources to develop and a construct a set which amplifies the 2009 iteration of the work as well as employ musicians and sound editors that create an unquestionably thorough evening. An evening in which students take clear and deserved pride in sharing a complex subject matter through difficult partnering and weighted gesture.

Campbell is not alone in her identity as a professor who is also an artist, with many faculty members at area universities considering ways to move their work with students into more broad contexts. While this experiment worked on many levels, the audience did seem to be made up of the family and friends of the student cast, begging questions about whether or not the idea of changing spaces more radically informs young artists or their associated audiences.

Ashley Anderson directs loveDANCEmore programs as part of her 501c3, ashley anderson dances. The reviews on loveDANCEmore are shared on 15 BYTES, Utah’s Visual Art Magazine.

There are two more showtimes of "The Final Hours" at Sugar Space


Sugar Space AIR Courtney Norris: Reminiscences and Whimsy

Local choreographer and Pilates instructor Courtney Norris has compiled a selection of reminiscences and whimsy for her current Artist-in-Residence program at Sugar Space. The show opened with Tis a Gift, a duet created and performed by Norris and Erica Womack. Norris and Womack were lit softly, as if at dusk, their shadows dancing on the wall behind them. They took turns supporting each other, tenderly and deliberately. The two swayed side by side, breathed together, dipped and lifted each other, and occasionally took a pause to place an arm carefully around the other’s shoulder. Norris and Womack maintained a similar relationship in Womack’s Dear Son. In a series of gestures taking place around the abdomen, the two moved together with the mutual understanding of two maternal beings. It is comforting to watch and they seem comfortable in their roles as matriarchs in both dances.

Fulcrum was a joint venture between Norris and local Bharatanatyam performer Srilatha Singh (of Chitrakaavya Dance). Norris and Singh took turns manipulating each other, moving each other’s arms, bending forward and side-to-side. The general feeling was exploratory, as they tested the waters of what each other could and would do. Singh’s hands and eyes began to come alive, in the riveting way singular to performers of Bharatanatyam. Their movements became more independent and branched into unison. Singh knelt in order to view Norris performing a solo, watching as a teacher gazes upon her pupil. Then, Singh began a solo of her own after Norris had ended her’s prostrate on the floor. Singh’s captivating hand gestures (or mudras), were punctuated with stomps and a gaze that told a story on its own. Norris and Singh walked side by side toward the lit candle upstage, as their exchange of knowledge came to conclusion.

Amy Freitas entranced the audience in Awakening Orbit, a solo co-choreographed with Norris and accompanied by percussionist Wachira Waigwa-Stone. Freitas’ arms breathed and grew like hungry vines as her knees propelled a giant silver orb across the stage. Freitas would reach to the highest imaginable place, only to collapse on the resilient orb in a reverberation of bounces, sometimes even diving forward onto it when the orb seemed just out of reach or still in motion. Always playful and radiating joy for the task at hand, Freitas demonstrated a beautiful understanding of her own being of which the galactic silver orb was an extension.

Courtney Norris has woven threads throughout a varied show– of motherhood, of remembering, of teaching, of learning, of exploring, of playing. To see this Artist-in-Residence program, visit Sugar Space Studio for the Arts tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 pm.

Amy Falls recently became the Mudson coordinator for loveDANCEmore. She has worked administratively for the arts here in the West and in New York City. She hold a BFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah.