Review: Virginia Repertory Dance Theater at Dogtown Dance Theatre 

Feb. 2, 2013

Everyone’s ears perked up when what seemed to be audience members got up and walked onstage at the start of choreographer Shane O’Hara’s “Delayed,” performed last weekend as part of Virginia Repertory Dance Theater’s third annual visit to Dogtown Dance Theatre. When they got to the stage, the six women and one man revealed themselves to be dancers working through a range of social interactions and explorations. How do groups behave versus individuals? How long can an audience handle being stared at by motionless dancers? How much irritated energy can build in the dancers before they run forward screaming? The dancers in O’Hara’s work, culled mostly from the Richmond-based Dogwood Dance Project, generated a wild energy by turns playful and serious. Virginia Repertory Dance Theater is a pre-professional dance company consisting of Dance majors from James Madison University’s School of Theater and Dance, and offers students an opportunity to learn works by faculty and professional guest artists and to gain performance experience by touring around Virginia. Last weekend’s program offered Richmond audiences an eclectic range of well-performed, engaging dance works. Notable works in addition to “Delayed” included Ting-Yu Chen’s “…cast ashore,” a trio for three woman in silky dresses, spinning in and out of the floor, and reaching out with arms or legs in moments of longing. Shannon Hummel’s “We Got This” duet comically juxtaposed a hip hop aesthetic with tutus and ballerina posturing to a song by LL Cool J; and “Calming Betty,” choreographed by Shane O’Hara and Heather Lundy delved into the neurosis of a solitary woman wrestling with a combination of her own health and despair at the state of the world. The program closed with a traditional Chinese fan dance choreographed by Wei Chen and performed with beautiful calm by the ensemble.

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