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Dance in Dialogue delivers a mesmerizing take on modern dance

This Friday and Saturday night (Nov. 21-22), dancers from the University of Oregon and other local companies will perform the final installment of the Dance in Dialogue series, or “D.i.D.” This four-part performance series began in January and culminates this weekend as dancers present works by a wide variety of talented choreographers in an intimate, community-focused setting. Even if you don’t consider yourself an expert in the art form, check out this show. You certainly won’t be bored, and you just might walk away with a new appreciation for modern dance.

Choreographer Margo Van Ummersen, an initiator of the D.i.D. project, describes the series as an answer to the “craving” in the Eugene area for “more situations where artists are inspired to create work in a community setting.” The program is designed to showcase both the process and the final product of modern dance and emphasizes experimental, collaborative work. Audience interaction is also encouraged, as suggested by the series’ title; each show concludes with audience-artist Q&A session, intended to foster meaningful conversations about the works presented.

The works themselves are artistic and often quite mesmerizing. Some dancers move in perfect sync to absolute silence. Others fling themselves across the stage, their faces painted with anguish. Taylor Theis’ duet featuring UO faculty member Sarah Ebert is especially stunning. The two dancers move in unison under a large hanging set piece in a dance intended to “[expose] two singular bodies in process – rumination, decay and birth,” according to the D.i.D. Facebook page. Other pieces incorporate elements like video or voice recording to enhance the production’s collaborative focus. As a whole, the show is diverse and well-executed.

An unprepared audience member might be thrown off, however, by the occasional grunting noise, angsty voice-over or long pause in an awkward position. D.i.D. certainly isn’t Dance Moms: it’s modern dance, and that often translates to the average eye as just plain “weird.” If you’re new to the genre, try to remember to look beyond first impressions. Duet partners may be so intertwined, you feel uncomfortable, but in the next moment, there will be a burst of movement that’ll take your breath away. Even a piece that begins as a laughably strange combination of clown face-paint, balloons and harp music eventually evolves into a powerful statement about violence and death.

D.i.D. is experimental art, and that can manifest into a lot of different things. It’s strange, but that isn’t always bad. From start to finish, Dance in Dialogue has something to share — as long as you’re willing to look for it.  As an audience member, it was up to me to uncover the meaning behind the pieces, and I enjoyed the process. Go see this show with an open mind, and you will leave with a better appreciation of what these people love to do and what they have to say. You won’t regret it, and you definitely won’t forget it.

“Dance in Dialogue” runs at 8 p.m. on November 21st and 22nd in the Dougherty Dance Theatre in Gerlinger Annex. Tickets are $5 for seniors and students, and $10 for the general public. Visit the D.i.D. Facebook page for more information.

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Rachel Benner

Rachel Benner

Rachel is a Theatre writer for the Arts and Culture Desk.