by Gina Palumbo for The Dance Journal
Kathy Fitzpatrick has made it her life’s mission to embody music in the way humans know how: through dance. Rock on Pointe: Music from the 1970’s is a true ode to the era, rich with story-telling and nostalgia for a simpler time. Through carefully selected music, audience members can catch a glimpse into each narrative that the choreographer has brought to life. She presents this work in hopes that audiences young and old can develop a reverence for music, and learn to honor it in the same capacity that she has.
As a 90’s child raised on this music, I couldn’t stop myself from dancing in my seat. Warm lighting and flowing costumes of sunset shades immediately filled the room with a peaceful energy. Upon glancing over the list of songs from the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles, I was eager to see how ballet could transform to this soundtrack.
When I asked Fitzpatrick why she chose this particular decade, she said that there was simply no other choice. Because she was in the throes of young adulthood in the 1970’s, it is fixed in her mind forever.
Eight works in entirety covered songs from different artists such as Aerosmith, Looking Glass, and Marvin Gaye. Music is as equally important to Fitzpatrick as movement is; in fact, the music comes first in her creative process. The movement flowed naturally, and it was almost as if it was a natural response to the music.
Dream On by Aerosmith was up first, and it was performed by the company. A strong gaze and expressive port de bras were established here, giving the dancers the opportunity to fully personify the reflective tone of the music. They would hold their gaze until the last possible moment, allowing the audience to slow down with them. Then, as the music began to intensify in the refrain, the dancers implemented traveling jumps and turns, so that the audience could feel the transition in the music.
Brandy by Looking Glass was the second performance, and it was a theatrical duet between company dancers Amber Hongsermeier and Elton Tombay. In this duet, there was the initial flirtatiousness, then longing between the dancers, to symbolize Brandy’s lost love. With elements of ballroom dance, it was as if they were the only two in the room.
Throughout the evening, male company member Elton Tombay would gracefully strut on and off stage while the others were still performing. This gave the impression that his presence was fleeting until he performed his solo I Heard It Through The Grapevine. With movements initiated from the shoulders, his performance was both soulful and groovy, which showed he had a clear sense of musicality.
I found myself wanting to know more about why this music was so special to Fitzpatrick, and I was moved by her answer. She said, “The musicians that wrote and performed this music broke away from the status quo of suits and ties; they wore jeans. My choreography is a tribute to those who dared to follow their own path, as I follow mine.”
When asked what lies ahead, the choreographer said she is brainstorming a work about Woodstock, as 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary. For now, she will continue to nurture this work.
After having the opportunity to speak with Fitzpatrick, I have learned two valuable lessons: to continue following my own path and to always give thanks to the music.
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