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Student Author Program – Review: An Evening of Duets

by Chelsey Nicole Hamilton for The Dance Journal

This review is part of the Dance Journal’s Student Author Program. Chelsey was mentored by Dance Journal writer, Kat Richter. Chelsey is a sophomore at Temple University, majoring in Journalism and Dance. She has been dancing various styles since the age of four and is very excited for this opportunity to combine her two passions, as well as becoming more involved in the arts community of Philadelphia.

In light of Valentine’s Day, professional dancer and choreographer Melissa Chisena decided to put on a performance filled with many different styles of dance, all of which had one thing in common: couples. Evening of Duets premiered Friday evening at the Community Education Center.

The show began with a simple duet, Proximities, choreographed by Chisena and performed to Bach’s Cello Suite #2 in D Minor. The dancers, Eleanor Goudie-Averill and Jennifer Yackel, kept glancing at each other at different points during the piece, which developed a sense of curiosity. One dancer wore a black top and blue bottom, while the other wore a blue top and black bottom, creating a sense that they were connected but somehow still different.

The Arrangement, choreographed by Tara Madsen Robbins, set a more fast-paced tone and was filled with strong and intense movements, including jumping, running, and upper body gestures. The dancers, Christine Michener and Priscilla Tillotson, wore pink dresses that contrasted with the wild and animal-like movements of the dance. The music of Zoe Keating gave the dancers a strong beat to follow and the piece ended suddenly when the dancers crouched down and the music stopped.

This led into Unveiled, a very serene and peaceful work performed by Yackel and Julia Kelly. They wore long, flowing skirts and utilized multiple angles and spaces on the stage. The end of this piece really stood out to me—the dancers finished across the stage facing one another with one hand up, seemingly longing for each other.

The next work, Sensus, comprised a superb performance by Chisena and Scott McPheeters. This number had the crowd laughing and stuck out because of its uniqueness compared to the other works in the show. To me, McPheeters and Chisena symbolized the typical power couple—their movements were very stiff, they would barely touch, and they seemed almost afraid of one another. They both wore business suits and seemed like they were constantly trying to get the other’s attention.

Connais-tu le Pays, the next piece, was both choreographed and danced by Yackel. In contrast to the previous number, she seemed serene and happy throughout the entire work, for which she wore a cream-colored dress.  The angelic voice of live opera singer Katie Stevenson was the perfect complement.

1096 featured live music by Matthew Fenwick. Dressed in all black, flamenco dancer Elba Hevia y Vaca and modern dancer KC Chun-Manning performed an exciting combination of two very different styles of dance. Hevia y Vaca used her feet and hands for rhythms, while Chun-Manning seemingly mimicked her. The piece was an audience favorite because the two opposing styles resulted in a feisty and lively performance.

Matthew Emig and Priscilla Tillotson wore extravagant costumes of purple, blue, and black feathers in the next piece, Soaring, choreographed by Robbins. This dance was very fast-paced and incorporated a lot of shaking in both the dancers’ arms and legs. The music, similar to their movements, was very nerve-wracking and added to the anticipation of the piece.

Chisena’s final work of the evening, La Notte, included live music and featured both Chisena and Yackel.  The dim lighting and the long skirts they wore— one in black and one in white— created a mysterious feel. The choreography picked up and got faster and faster as the dancers seemed to mirror one another. Due to the eye contact and constant electrifying feel between the dancers, this number was an unforgettable way to end a show full of a variety of different duets.


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