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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

REVIEW: Move on Litwin showcases dreamlike experience of dancing

Many may consider dance to be a simple sequence of steps. But when watching Wichita State’s Performing Arts students — who live, breathe, and study it — there’s more to be experienced.

Conversations crackled throughout the Heskett Hall dance studio, which was transformed into a stage and auditorium. The night’s community, built out of parents, grandparents, siblings, coaches, and teachers, buzzed. They’d share another night together in silence. But like me, they’d sit and watch the humble room transform into the dancer’s world: their pain, joy, struggle and triumph expressed through dancing.

“Move on Litwin: Dance Up Close”  had six performances: “Hey! How are you today?”, “Variation No. 3” from the ballet “Paquita,” “Full-Throated and Unsparingly,” “this isn’t the beginning,” “Step by Step,” and “Moments, Thoughts, & Relativity.

“Hey! How are you today?

Choreographed by Mina Estrada with contributions from the dancers, the first performance of the night began with the 20 dancers howling. The audience howled back at them with laughter, warmed by the animalistic nature of it all. It set the scene for the show: raw and unconventional. 

“Hey! How are you today?” was intended to portray finding comfort in the chaos of everyday living, exploring mundanity, sublimity, simplicity and the extraordinary through dance movement. 

The power of contemporary dance, though, is its embrace of interpretation. Every movement meant something unique to each person watching but also to each dancer. Hidden truths lie in plain sight as we confront “Hey! How are you today?”

“Variation No. 3” from the ballet “Paquita”

This dance was choreographed after Marius Petipa and coached by Denise Celestin. I attended the Friday, Oct. 27 showing of “Move on Litwin: Dance Up Close,” meaning I watched Hannah Chandler do the solo. 

The classical ballet performance, a solo excerpt from the 19th-century ballet “Paquita,” contrasted the otherwise contemporary showcase. As a ballet lover, I found it complementary to the other performances. The heavy and raw dances were interrupted by a poised and graceful performance that was just as meaningful. 

The diversity of dances not only gave Chandler and Tabitha Buffalo, the alternate soloist, a moment to shine, but it rounded the showcase out. Chandler moved elegantly; the show lights illuminated her work. She looked angelic on the stage, floating like a dove. 

The variation matched the themes of uncertainty, and, more importantly, left it intentionally unregulated. This dance world was lawless. 

“Full-Throated and Unsparingly”

I found this dance, choreographed by Sarah Knapp, the most emotional performance of the night, carried by Andrae Carter, who embraced the dance’s thematic elements with his facial expressions.

The dance is inspired by Isaiah 58:1: “Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast.”

The dance program notes that it’s “a work in progress, an idea being continually contemplated, researched, and explored through movement.” I think it’s found its footing in that very way.

The dancers were wholly acting, whether by a stoic expression and the limited movement of walking across the stage or through the deranged erratic movements that were “crying out.”

“this isn’t the beginning”

Choreographed by Mina Estrada with contributions by Gavin Myers and the dancers, ‘this isn’t the beginning’ was simply fun. The performance began with the song “I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos. The recognizable tune made the dance comfortable, initially. 

Then, it was a collection of duets that asked “What if the whole of the universe exists in the space between us? What if you are me?”

The costumes were unsettling: baggy light brown dresses. They resembled hospital gowns or straitjackets, skewing my perception of the affectionate duets to appear codependent. 

As the song changed to “Nocturne No. 20” by Frederic Chopin, the duet partners detached. 

“Step by Step”

Choreographed by Sabrina Vasquez with the dancers, Step by Step” still sits at the forefront of my memory, especially the visual of the dancers pulling out their ponytails and whipping their hair across the stage.

“Step by Step” captured the student experience of, fighting monotony with tenacity and passion. 

With an experience each dancer could call back to, the personal recollections made for powerhouse performances. The power of representation lends artists the ability to tell their stories in a craftful manner, and pieces like “Step by Step” are delivered in such a striking way.

“Moments, Thoughts, & Relativity”

“Moments, Thoughts & Relativity” ended the show. The lighting stayed dark throughout the performance to set the ending tone.

With lights flickering on individual dancers, notably Kimmy Aguilar, who had contorted her body across the stage floor like a snake, the dance was mesmerizing. 

It was made to explore choreographer Cheyla Clawson’s grief upon losing her first husband. To explore trauma, healing, and resilience. The dance’s progression and uncertainty fit “Move on Litwin: Dance Up Close”  flow like a puzzle piece. 

Final comments

While the show lasted barely an hour, I felt like I’d spent a lifetime there, like I’d revisited an old friend. I still feel exasperated, overwhelmed and stunned. 

Kudos to the brilliant dancers, choreographers, coaches, stage technicians, and workers who produced “Move on Litwin: Dance Up Close”; what a show.

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About the Contributor
Monique Bever
Monique Bever, Reporter
Monique Bever is a first-year reporter and photographer. She is a freshman majoring in philosophy. Monique has lived in Wichita for most of her life. She loves film, fashion, and her cat.

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