By John Schneider
June 4, 2014
The UW-Milwaukee Dance Department closes each school year with an edition of “Summerdances,” a concert of new work by faculty and guest choreographers created during the year with students. Each edition has an artistic director to oversee it, in this case, choreographer Luc Vanier whose program notes reminded us that the teacher/dancer relationship is dance’s lifeline. “Summerdances” always addresses the present, honors the past and looks forward with curiosity, and that was especially true this year. Subtitled “Lineage,” the show toasted the department’s 50th birthday.
Ferne Caulker-Bronson, a faculty member since 1971, is the most distinguished of this edition’s choreographers. Her Ko-Thi Dance Company, founded in 1969, rivals the department in longevity. She also founded UWM’s African dance major. Her piece, “Their Eyes Are Watching God,” featuring guest choreographer/performer Christal Wagner, defined lineage. A gorgeously costumed and lighted ceremony by a priestess and her small congregation grew with perfect transparency into ecstatic, contemporary dance theater, absorbing African Diaspora developments along the way. Desmond Cotton proved an electrifying soloist. The dancers seemed poised between earth and sky, then and now. As the modern evolved from the archaic, Bronson made organic space for Wagner’s lovely 2007 solo “Sojourn.” Wagner, a member of Danceworks Performance Company, is doing breakout work all over town.
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