The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Students shine at Fall Dance Concert

As the 87-year-old woman gingerly walked down the stairs of SMU’s Sharp dance studio, one would hardly realize she is a protégé of the most influential American choreographer in history: Martha Graham. Yet as Yuriko, as she is called, sits down before the group of talented dance majors, her posture straightens, her arms extend gracefully and her feet tap in time with the music. “Breathe!” she instructs the dancers. Her eyes are alert, correcting even the tiniest mistake, yet her mind is also deep in reverie. Through the students, she is vicariously reliving her time onstage.

Yuriko is one of several artists who have come to SMU from New York to reconstruct, document and preserve “Primitive Mysteries,” which was first performed in 1931 and is considered by many to be Graham’s seminal work. The project, funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Meadows Foundation, will record the historical masterpiece so it can be experienced by future generations.

“Primitive Mysteries” is also one of three diverse works performed in the fall dance concert, which runs through Sunday in Meadows’ Bob Hope Theatre.

The first piece in the concert, “End of Time Pas de Deux,” was choreographed by another notable dance figure: Ben Stevenson. Currently, the artistic director of Texas Ballet Theatre. In the ballet, the couple flows gracefully from loving embraces into breathtaking lifts, illuminated by a warm, red glow reminiscent of a sunset.

When the Meadows Jazz Orchestra takes the stage for “Umbra,” a burst of multi-colored extravagance celebrates Duke Ellington’s internationally influenced music. In the program, choreographer and dance faculty member Danny Buraczeski writes that Ellington’s music was enriched by his “gift for sensing the character of nations, atmospheres of cities…and tempos of living.” Indeed, with jeans-clad dancers, multi-colored lights and choreography infused with elements of African, Latin and swing dances, the piece is a melting pot of both cultures and eras in time.

Particularly impressive are Jarrell Hamilton and Willis Johnston, who perform a tango and salsa-inspired duet in “Umbra.” Their sultry stylization added character not as evident in some sections of the dance. Nonetheless, both the dancers’ and the musicians’ energy reach out to an enthusiastic audience.

The most striking piece, however, is “Primitive Mysteries.” The stark simplicity of the dance draws focus to the emotional intensity, the dramatic power of dance.

Each of the three sections of the piece begins and ends with 12 dancers striding slowly yet deliberately onto or off the stage.

The dancers’ angular, percussive gestures are abstract yet symbolic. In the second movement, “Crucifixus,” Mary covers her eyes with her hands and pulsates with grief. When she gently lowers another dancer into her lap in the third movement, “Hosanna,” they form a perfect representation of the Pieta.

Such a powerful performance is a testimony to the excellence of SMU’s dance program. Through Yuriko, they are experiencing the essence of the creation of modern dance. Yuriko has passed the torch to a new generation. The result, she says through teary eyes, is “magical.”

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