Student Author Program – Review: An Evening of Duets

Photo by Bill Hebert

by Kristen Gillette for The Dance Journal

This review is part of the Dance Journal’s Student Author Program. Kristen was mentored by Dance Journal writer, Kat Richter. Kristen studies journalism at Temple University and has written for a wide variety of publications, including, Magazine, and Cred Magazine, working to expand her knowledge of music and the arts. Other publications she’s interned for include Technically Philly and MetroKids Magazine. After taking dance lessons as a child, Kristen returned to ballet as an adult and blogs about her experience at

Despite freezing rain and snow, the theater at the Community Education Center was filled to capacity for this pre-Valentine’s Day performance, as various artists and companies were highlighted in  a series of both romantic and explosive duets.

In the first piece of the evening, Proximities, choreographed by Melissa Chisena, and performed by Eleanor Goudie-Averill and Jennifer Yackel, the dancers moved gracefully across the stage, often mirroring the other one’s motions set to Bach’s Cello Suite #2 in D minor.  As the piece ended, they two stood back to back, supporting each other with their knees bent and swaying gently and calmly as the lights dimmed.

The Arrangement, choreographed by Tara Madsen Robbins, was a nice change of pace from the first piece. As Zoe Keating’s music thundered through the air, dancers Christine Michener and Pricilla Tillotson stomped on the floor angrily, performing perfectly in unison. Energy filled the dance as Michener and Tillotson threw a punch towards the audience, then turned a quarter to the side and repeated the tribalesque move in every direction. They spun and spun together, flinging their arms out and whipping them back to their hips, as if they were spinning tops. While the dance was filled with energy and anger, the spaghetti-strapped red dresses with thin belt buckles didn’t fit.

Connais-tu le Pays, was a duet offering a cross genre collaboration between singer Kate Stevenson (performing Mignon’s aria from Thomas’ Mignon) and dancer, Yackel. The piece began with gentle, fairytale music, while Yackel gently rose and glided across the floor, reaching toward the sky while in arabesque. Stevenson watched while singing the beautiful opera piece. The two occasionally made eye contact, making Stevenson an active participant in the duet.

As an excerpt and work in progress to premiere at PIFA on April 5-7, “1096” was easily one of the most interesting pieces of the night. Elba Hevia y Vaca stood facing the rear of the stage while KC Chun-Manning laid on the floor on her back beside her. Using her feet, Chun-Manning crawled up Hevia y Vaca’s back, supporting herself on her shoulders and head on the ground in a balancing act. While supporting Chun-Manning, Hevia y Vaca began to tap her feet to the beat of the drum, played by Matthew Fenwick. They broke apart and the piece continued as Hevia y Vaca seemingly taunted Chun-Manning with her tapping.

In the most unique piece of the night, Soaring (choreographed by Robbins), dancers Matthew Emig and Tillotson were scantily clad in peacock-colored feathers, representing birds. Throughout the work, they waved their fingers and flap their arms, as if they were birds. At one point, the two of them lay on their backs, furiously kicking their legs into the air, as if they were stuck. The costumes and the choreography were just a bit too much to be taken seriously.

All of the duets seemingly fit together while at the same time, they varied enough to keep the evening interesting, providing a look at how different choreographers and dancers create duet performances.