'Fall Forward' kicks off the ASU MainStage season with humor, dance

Through subtle and surprising bits of humor, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre started off the 2015-16 MainStage season with it’s annual “Fall Forward!” dance showcase this past weekend at Paul V. Galvin Playhouse.  

This year’s show was not just any abstract dance showcase, though. There were no uniform costumes, contrasted lighting or flashy background visuals.  The theater was brought to life by the simple, yet stunning raw talent of the acts.

The show began about twenty minutes before the official start time with the vibrant and thought-provoking pre-show entitled, “Vibrant Lives - Data Archives.” 

The theme of the performance was the sensory experience induced by human engagement with mobile devices.

Following the pre-show, a huge screen came down in front of the audience. Anticipation built in the room as folks whispered, “What’s goin’ on? I thought this was a dance show!” What happened next would turn out the be the comic highlight of the show.

A fictional dance instructor by the name of “Miss Karen” offered a satirical portrayal of the life of a stereotypical dance aficionado. A short film following Miss Karen was broken up into four hilarious segments: “Miss Karen Makes a Dance,” “Miss Karen Gets Interviewed” and “Miss Karen Reads the Review.”

The first segment of the film includes a guest appearance from New York Times writer Claudia LaRocco and the ASU Dance Community. Miss Karen, the full-of-herself sassy dance teacher, pretentiously shows off the process of perfecting dance techniques and styles. When asked about her students who are performing in a dance recital, she immediately returns the attention to herself, and takes the opportunity to show off her own talents.

In the final segments, Miss Karen receives a review (written by LaRocco) on one of her dance performances. Just before reading it, she gives herself a personal review saying, “When I finished my dance, I felt good about it, and I could tell the audience felt good about it too.”

The seemingly bored audience in the film gave stingy claps and stone-cold stares, which translated to Karen as “stunned silence” because of how good she thought she was.

“I’m Not as Think as You Drunk I Am,” a new original piece by dance professor Jessica Rajko, was the longest and one of the most intriguing performers of the show. It was created in collaboration with local dance artists and five insanely talented ASU students: Felix Cruz, Jordan Daniels, Sydney Jackson, Elisa Radcliffe, and Juan Rodriguez. 

Weaved between research on drinking behavior, sexual identity, gender, race and several personal stories, this work provides an artistic portrayal of the relationships many young adults have with alcohol.

During the intermission, the same five performers stuck around for a hilarious interactive drunk-karaoke session with the audience. The session comprised of three throwback mega-hits: “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and “Friday” by Rebecca Black.

Associate professor and assistant director of dance at ASU Mary Fitzgerald said the difference in pieces helped make them successful. 

“This year’s line-up of pieces is especially exciting because of the range of aesthetics they represent in the realm of contemporary dance, from the poetic and humorous to the highly visceral,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald, choreographed and performed and duet with clinical professor Eileen Standley. The fascinating work, titled “Blink,” is inspired by the passage of time. The piece incorporates two musicians, Barry Moon and Doug Nottingham, and one lighting designer, Carolyn Koch. Unlike most dance performances, the musicians and lighting designer join the dancers onstage and are included in the performances. All five artists offer unique perspectives of the piece as it unfolds.

The show closes with an appropriately named performance titled “Crescendo.” Reflecting its definition, the piece begins at a soft beating pace with a sunrise light effect, and eventually transforms into a gorgeous frenzy to leave the audience in high spirits.

“Fall Forward!” truly set the stage for a magnificent dance season. Be sure to check out the MainStage 2015-16 schedule and purchase tickets for upcoming shows here.

Tickets are $8 for students; you can’t beat that.

Reach the reporter at kkingsum@asu.edu or follow @kaylakingsumner on Twitter.

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