Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 11, 2011

Philadanco Dance Company

UMass Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA
March 10, 2011
by Stacie Beland

The UMass Fine Arts Center continued its successful run of high-caliber dance performances with Philadanco's energetic and passionate stylings. Philadanco, the Philadelphia Dance Company, performed four works, each showcasing the troupe's powerful ability to captivate and enthrall an audience.

"Bolero Too," a marvelous full-company piece choreographed by Christopher Huggins and set to the moving music of Ravel, set a series of relationships to an almost militaristic beat. The result was startlingly beautiful. As the dancers moved together and apart, emotions ranged from joy to jealousy to anger flashed across the stage. Philandanco excels at allowing individual dancers to tailor the choreography slightly to their own personal styling during moments of solo, duo and trio movements - allowing for a feast of visuals for the audience. During the larger company movements, the dancers displayed perfect precision.

The company returned to the stage with an amazingly different, though no less thrilling, piece titled "By Way of the Funk." Choreographed by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and set to music by the always-upbeat Parliament Funkadelics, the work was broken into four different movements. Mixing seemingly-improvised movement with stunning synchronization, it was a great deal of fun and highly engaging. Meant as a "joyous celebration of the 40 years of Philadanco's experience," the dancers personified elation onstage, and dancer Lamar Baylor's perfectly-placed comedic routine was a wonderful pause in between movements.

"Elegy," the company's broad and mournful piece, was a classic example of the seamless melding of ballet and modern. At times frightening, at times heartbreaking, the movement reached out from beyond the stage and grabbed the audience to never let go. It is a magical work from its first moments to the close of the curtain, when the company amasses to a single, dying creature.

The audience was treated to the work choreographed by Christopher Huggins. With exceptional lighting design, the dancers moved with endless energy. Clothed somewhat androgynously, the piece was ostensibly about fear of the unknown and the potential for enemies existing in everyday life.  Truly, though, it stood on its own as a work of power and dramatic dancing.