Review: RAD Fest is an Impressive Display of the Diversity of Dance

The 15th anniversary Regional Area Dance Festival kickoff performance at Wellspring Theater in Kalamazoo Thursday night featured an eclectic mix of “Michigan Made” dances. This focus on dancers and choreographers working in our very own state is new to RAD Fest this year and in two hours and two acts, 10 distinct pieces showcased wonderful diversity in style, mood, theme, and bodies presented on stage, a celebration of contemporary dance in the Mitten.

The most compelling and beautiful of the dances came from Detroit Dance Collective with “ONE . . . in the spirit of connectivity of all things . . . “, a piece choreographed by Barbara Selinger set against moving images of planets and constellations as well as a voiceover that at one point asks “ Do you know where you are in time and space?” It begins with a pair in an embrace that moves from the ground to a slow, connected pas de deux and gives way to five barefoot dancers performing lyrical modern movements with lovely lines in navy onesies.

Breakin’ Ballet dancers Joy Morris-Burton and Aerick Burton from Kalamazoo also made use of projected images of planets but offered a very different style of dance. A blend of acrobatics, yoga, ballet, and breakdancing, contortions, handstands, arm balances and pointe work all, at turns, take center stage.

Other dances were driven by playfulness and fun, from Okemos’s Happendance Velocity’s jazzy “Prime Time”, choreographed by Jim McEwan and set to Count Bassie, to Erika ‘RED’ Stowall’s “dance will be the Death of me”, a comedic monologue cum deliberately stumbling, staggering solo that likens dance to addiction, set to Ella Fitzgerald.

Unusual silliness abounds in “Yodel (or The Long Dark Yodel of the Soul” performed by four members of Ann Arbor’s Terpsichore Collective dressed in red, black, red, and white who, amid offering long, clean lines and angular movements choreographed by Aimee McDonald, climb over and into pylons set to nonsensical vocals, yodeling, and didgeridoo from Stimmhorn.

And the spirited, high energy “Atypical Alterations”, choreographed by Tracy Halloran and Jillian Hopper, is like an upbeat, funky music video with its straight-up joy as seven dancers look up, make little leaps, jump, thump rhythmically, walk, run in a circle, and all fall down before rising and looking to the sky to heavy bass beat and ambient music by Prosthetic Hands.

Indeed, every dance made its mark with roots in modern techniques with innovative inflections of ballet, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop, and break dancing evident throughout the performance.

This homage to dance created and performed in Michigan offered a promising start to a weekend-long celebration of Midwestern dance, yet another exciting annual opportunity for dance innovators and enthusiasts to connect in meaningful ways through Kalamazoo’s RAD Fest.

RAD Fest
Feb. 29-March 3

Photo Courtesy of RAD Fest.