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Dance review: RVA Dance Collective

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RVA Dance Collective celebrated five years of performances at The Grace Street Theater with their fifth-annual spring repertory concert, #art, Friday and Saturday.

Co-artistic directors Jess Burgess and Danica Kalemdaroglu presented a new work, “The Other Side of Now,” and the company presented an intriguing piece of contemporary Japanese dance, butoh, from guest artist Julia Vessey.

The show opened with Chloe Bowman’s “Accepted Orbit,” performed by Bowman and Gabrielle Johnson. Bowman’s work was selected as part of RVA Collective’s yearly opportunity offered to company dancers to have their work produced and performed.

Bowman’s piece started with seemingly predictable modern dance movement, but blossomed into inventive choreography. Bowman’s choice of lighting gave the piece an otherworldly feel, and Bowman’s and Johnson’s movement styles complemented one another. While the choreography moved between interesting and cliché, the dancers’ movement remained impressive.

Kalemdaroglu had the audience bursting out in laughter with her comedic piece “If you would like to make a call please look up and try again.” The piece used the glow of cellular phones to accentuate the movement while also making a statement: humans are clearly addicted, obsessed and in love with our devices.

Vessey’s, “matte iru ha” (the leaves are falling), originally commissioned by James Madison University to be performed by members of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, presented fascinating images and left the audience with an unforgettable image of dancers walking on the balls of the feet, legs folded, across the stage with their arms suspended in the air. The piece brought a special feel to the show since the movement was unlike any other pieces presented that night and unlike Western dance movement vocabulary.

Burgess presented two works, “anima” and “Winter.” Dancers from Mechanicsville dance studio, The Dance Company, performed “Winter” and the dance, with its large cast, exhibiting technique and partnering that came off as tricks, stuck out in the middle of concert dance performances. The piece — which looked choreographed to impress commercial dance judges — did reveal, however, the bright future of dance in Richmond as these young dancers are from and being trained in Richmond and danced well.

“Let’s go back to the part where you lie on top of me” choreographed by Rebecca A. Ferrell, artistic director of FDance, forced the audience to notice the details of the body, welcoming the questions of: what can move and how can it move?

Burgess and Kalemdaroglu seemed to be moving through Jell-O as they danced; every action had a reaction that sequenced through the body, smooth and fully. The experimental piece played with movement, partnering and sharing weight so creatively, that it didn’t matter that the relationship of the dancers to each other was left unexplained.

Burgess and Kalemdaroglu collaborated on “The other side of now,” a piece that started off with a Cirque-du-Soleil feel but developed into interludes where the dancers seemed to be melting on stage. Some of the most effective moments were the suspended lifts or the choreographers’ choices to use stillness in the middle of rapid movement.

For RVA Collective, a project that began in 2009 when two friends merged their individual dance companies in order to invigorate the modern dance scene in Richmond, the show was successful. They presented modern dance pieces that made an audience laugh and think while exiting with smiles on their faces.

Dancer and teacher Sheena Jeffers writes abut dance for She can be contacted at


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