Before the Sunday debut of Tiers by Jin-Wen Yu Dance, the events of 9/11 were somberly remembered with a moment of silence. Dance professor Yu, a native of Taiwan, is presenting the program as part of the University of Wisconsin's Taiwanese Arts Week. Celebrating the arts, and world culture, seems a fitting tribute to the diverse and resilient nature of our country and its people. The program is being performed in UW Lathrop Hall's H'Doubler Performance Space.
Yu dances in "The Other Side" with Collette Stewart, who enters in a looping stride, on all fours. Yu scoots on his back beneath her, his legs gently bicycling through the air. Yu's foot ensnares Stewart's and alters the path of their movements. When they rise, you appreciate the movement quality they share, a fluid calm, and what sets them apart, Yu's exacting precision and Stewart's long-limbed elegance.
In "Unconcealing," a quintet dressed in dramatic variations of black and red work with fans, which add an element of suspense. You hope the dancers don't bobble them, or miss cues snapping them open and shut. The dancers all do nice work here. Sarah Mitchell and Kit Stanley are sometimes paired, as are Melissa Erickson and Jamie Landry, while Janelle Bentley often is on her own. She's compelling to look at, with her close cropped hair and fierce attack. The fans make very satisfying thwack sounds when manipulated and heighten the drama of simple gestures.
The piece that moves me most is "Spiegel im Spiegel," with sumptuous and tender dancing by Stewart and Yun-Chen Liu, clad in simple purple jersey dresses. Again and again Stewart leans forward, at first just slightly and then all the way to the floor, and Liu guides her. Stewart repeatedly holds her cupped hands over her eyes and Liu often shakes her head, silky bob flying. Gingerly Liu takes one of Stewart's hands and pulls it down and around her body, encircling her. The two tend to each other as Arvo Part's lovely music envelops us. They mutter in silence, their faces contorted by rapidly moving mouths with no sound being emitted.
"Replay" may not look as innovative as it probably did when it premiered back in 1995, but it's still a fun romp. It's punctuated with children's games like hopscotch. The dancers skitter, arms and legs stiff, with an awkward little back and forth motion. At one point two groups face off, confronting each other like Maori warriors performing a haka. Kit Stanley is lovely here, very purposeful and clean with her movement. When she is teamed with Daniel Wellner, they share a good dynamic. Joanna Michelic is also noteworthy with her pretty style and exuberant expression.
After intermission comes "Flakes," a four-part work that includes engaging videos from Ting-Yi Lin and evocative lighting by Claude Heinz. Yu pushes forward through long sheets of flexible white netting as David Iannitelli's score begins, first with breath sounds, then noisy layers of city sounds. Stewart and Liu dance together again, costumed in shades of amber and pale orange, along with frothy bits of paper that they sometimes pick off of each other. Yu is refined and swift, seemingly serene in a Tai Chi-influenced phrase before he releases a burst of challenging, breakneck-speed moves.
Tiers will be presented at 8 p.m. in Lathrop Hall on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 12 and 13.