REVIEW: Contemporary Dance Oklahoma

The following guest review, an essay  by University of Oklahoma freshman Nadia Moore, in partial fulfillment of an arts appreciation curriculum requirement for all OU students, reveals more about the stature of contemporary dance and exceptional arts leadership at OU. Nadia, an accounting major, also plays the  flute in OU’s Pride of Oklahoma marching band.          

Contemporary Dance Oklahoma Spring 2016 OU Concert

Nadia Moore at OU

Nadia Moore

— An Essay by Nadia Moore —  Hometown: Newcastle, OK

NORMAN, Okla., USA — Dance, Music, and Theater. All of these art forms are beautiful in their own unique way. In the summers, my family and I participate in the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. We attend ballets, operas, and plays. It is beautiful and pleasurable. I have always enjoyed the arts. That is why I chose to partake in the class, Understanding Dance. I wanted to learn more about the art of Dance, how to observe and appreciate it, and the history.

In this (May 1) Dance Performance, Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, I observed Austin Hartel’s  Time’s Edge, The Man Who Fell From the Moon, and Bach; Black Lights, and Lucid, by guest choreographers Raimondo Rebeck and Ilya Kozadayev, respectively; and Sonia Dawkins’ Love Letter, all of which were beautiful pieces.

(Kozadayev premiered his work, Lucid, a glimpse into dreams, built on CDO dancer’s perspectives. Trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia; the School of American Ballet in New York City, and John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany, Kozadayev was a winner in the 2000 New York International Ballet Competition).*

The costumes were very appropriately put together to convey the message of (each) piece. I most enjoyed Black Lights with the Tattoo looking uniform between the two dancers and his very intricate choreography.

(Rebeck, a former principal dancer with Deutsche Oper Berlin, is the 2016 Susan E. Brackett Distinguished Visiting Artist Chair at OU, and winner of many prestigious national and international ballet competitions. His Black Lights was inspired by interviews with blind  individuals, as to how they perceive light from a guiding inner voice)*

The lighting for all the performances was very well conducted. I most enjoyed the lighting choreography of Richard L Sprecker (assistant professor of lighting design for the OU Helmerich School of Drama)* in the pieces Black Lights and Love Letter. He tended to have more dimmed lighting that conveyed a more serious and emotional tone to the piece.

OU CDO 2016

Banner and insert photos provided by OU Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts

Another aspect of the overall production that I enjoyed was the choreography. I enjoy contemporary dance and how it communicates specific ideas through movement. It is more improvisational than classical dance. I enjoy the interpretive abilities of the performances.

I noticed that Austin Hartel created more athletic choreography, which appeared more challenging and contained more modern dance aspects than the rest of the choreographers. Over all, the performances were beautiful and entertaining.

(Austin Hartel, for 17 years the artistic director of Dalton-Hartel Dance, also for five years danced as soloist and co-choreographer for Pilobolus Dance Theater, and other noted dance companies, and has served as guest artist and master teacher internationally. He is artistic director of the Hartel Dance Group based in Oklahoma City, and Coordinator of Modern Dance at the University of Oklahoma).*

The first piece of the evening was Hartel’s Time’s Edge, a piece inspired by Stephen Hawking’s, A Brief History of Time, which contains his “Big Bang Theory” and other theories of his. In the performance, there was a cat-like animal (visible) inside a box that had a timer counting down to 0. The performance’s program, given to each audience member, read that this piece’s ending is determined every night by a ‘role of dice’ so that each evening has the chance of having a different outcome.

I felt as though this was due to the fact that the piece was like life. No one knows exactly when his or her life will come to an end. The “Big Bang Theory” is the theory of how the earth was created in a bang. It was unexpected and instantaneous. This is how the every day is like. Mankind does not know if or when the Earth will end, or how it will occur; it will just occur. The message was conveyed as the need to live life in connection with people and the earth. The choreography expressed this through the rhythmic and uniform movement in the beginning.

The swaying of the dancers hips in an unvarying technique showed the connection necessary in life; the need to be in rhythm with the world and people. Individual parts disrupted the consistency of uniform choreography in the piece. This was used to convey how connection is important, but also individuality through connection is imperative. In general, the choreography of the piece reflected that of (noted German dancer & choreographer)* Pina Bausch’s choreography in that of the interpretive aspects of her work. The costumes were used to better convey the uniformity.

All the dancers had a very simple dress with their hair in a simple style, but each dress had a unique color. This better conveyed the idea of individuality in a uniform life. The lighting was very dim and serious. I could not necessarily see faces of dancers unless they had a solo with the light on them. This helped to make the dancers more universal. They were less relatable, just people. Overall the piece was very informative and pensive.

The last piece of the evening, the one I most enjoyed, was Love Letter. The overall piece was very dramatic and expressive. It contained a lot of emotion, which the dancers perfectly expressed. The piece demonstrated the essence of falling in love. The choreography by Sonia Dawkins was similar to that of choreography by (world-renowned Czech choreographer)* Jiri Kylian. It contained his same athleticism, abruptness, and effort to push the body to perform tasks that are extreme.

(International, award-winning choreographer Sonia Dawkins is CEO, founder and artistic director of SD/Prism Dance Theatre, PRISM  LOFT, LLC and SD Prism Foundation).*

I feel as though this style was influential in depicting love’s very complexity and intensity. Another part of the piece that stood out to me was the prop use. The set contained tables, at least six, and notes to look like love letters. The tables were used as background, and tools; similar to the prop use done by (famed leading Swedish choreographer)* Mats Ek in his Apartment.

The dancers would dance on, under, and around the tables. When the dancers used the tables to stand and stick out among the uniform crowd on stage, it conveyed the message of how exposed love makes people. The letters better informed the audience of the theme being depicted. I enjoyed Sprecker’s lighting. His lighting added a mood of stress and intensity; adding to the expression of how falling in love can create stress due to the vulnerability of one’s self in this state.

The music of the piece had me on the edge of my seat. It created an emotion of anticipation, elaborating on the idea that falling in love can have you in a constant state of anticipation, waiting to see what happens next, if anything happens next. The costumes were very influential in depicting the theme of the piece —  very tight fitting and didn’t contain much material. They helped to develop the idea of how falling in love can leave one exposed and vulnerable. All in all, this piece was beautiful, by far my favorite.

In conclusion, the Contemporary Dance Oklahoma performance was a beautiful and influential program that left me in awe of the University of Oklahoma’s dancers. I am glad that I was given this assignment, to review and reflect on this performance. I believe that it will influence the way I view and appreciate performances in the future.

# # # # # (*Designates Editor’s Notes).

Seasonal Reflections as Semester Ends

The Spring schedule for the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts recently included OU President’s Arts Week, a tribute to the strong leadership and distinctive arts patronage of OU president David  L. Boren and first lady Molly Shi Boren. Diverse arts events and concerts were featured.

“We must not focus solely on the mind and the body, and neglect the spirit,” says

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Carmina Burana solo

president Boren. “Music and all of the arts feed the soul.”


Mary Margaret Holt

Under the leadership of WFCFA newly-appointed dean, Mary Margaret Holt, who is also director of OU’s celebrated School of Dance, two diverse concerts featuring dance were recently offered on the same day (May 1), in different theaters, in the burgeoning OU Arts District:  Contemporary Dance Oklahoma at the Reynolds Performing Arts Center; and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, an elaborate ‘Collaboration of Music and Dance,’ at Catlett  Music Center, —  well-suited to stage such robust, collaborative productions involving OU Carmina Burana Instrumentalists, Oklahoma Festival Ballet, University Chorale, OU Women’s Chorus, OU Men’s Glee Club, and Ragazzi Choir.  Bravo to all for dynamic synergy!

(Carmina Burana photo insert features Feleacia Quezergue as The Girl in Red).

Upcoming  OU School of Dance Summer Events 2016:

June 12 – 25: SummerWind Youth Ballet, an intensive training program for serious students intent on enhancing technical and artistic skills as dancers.  Final performance will be Saturday, June 25 at Holmberg Hall at OU.

July 1 – 3: SummerDance, Dance & Dessert, an evening of ballet and modern dance choreographed by OU faculty, performed by OU School of Dance majors. Performances at 8 p.m. Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 3. at the Reynolds Performing Arts Center, Room 3002. Join dancers and choreographers, after, for a champagne and dessert reception.

To confirm details and calendar updates, visit,  and .

# # # # #(c)Glenda Rice Collins 5-18-16; Updated 5-18-16   All Rights Reserved.



3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Contemporary Dance Oklahoma

  1. The writings of this young Freshman student, Nadia Moore, show a lot of maturity and excellence of thought as her attention to even the smaller details draw you in to hear her every word. I was very impressed by her interpretations of the dances. Thank you for sharing this beautiful young woman’s thoughts and ideas with us.


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