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Thursday, July 31, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 65.0° F  Partly Cloudy


Jazzworks sparkles and shines at Overture Center

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Crabby at the prospect of venturing out into the snowy mess on March 2, I was rewarded by Jazzworks Dance Company's pleasurable evening of dance at the Overture Center's Capitol Theater. The dancing was consistently topnotch from this Madison-based company of well-trained and engaging performers.

While I found some of the pieces blandly pretty, they were always punctuated with some visually arresting moments. In "Zuhm," by guest choreographer Susan Quinn, a striking lull amidst the dense and technically demanding steps was created when some of the dancers stood still with their arms held high and crossed at the elbows, obscuring their faces.

The most satisfying piece of the evening was associate director Zach De Vries' lovely and evocative "Nocturne's Despondency," set to John Williams' mournful score from Schindler's List. The four dancers in muted shades responded to De Vries' sophisticated choreography with beautiful breath and phrasing. Even when doing simple gestures like tracing circles on the floor with their hands or bending to gather up another dancer, they were luminous. Arianne Kluesner wowed me in a brief solo showcasing her remarkably supple back and expressive upper body.

Following this was "Bench Blast," artistic director Carol Marion Ceniti's cheerful and clever piece set to James Brown's music with rainbow-hued costumes and exuberant dancing from the cast. Whether leaping between, swirling around or balancing on benches, the dancers infused the piece with just the right amount of sass (much more and it would have been too cutesy).

In guest choreographer Sherry Zunker's "2:10 a.m.," the six sexy women in black dresses with splashes of color all brought something distinctly their own to the slinky and fun movement. Again Kluesner caught my eye with her playful performance. She's a versatile technician who is also blessed with a natural stage presence (she knows how to use her face and eyes to involve the audience). Another standout in the talented cast was Megan Duster, whose crisp, clean lines and precise technique shone in every piece she was in.

"Charanga," a Latin-infused piece by guest choreographer Frank Chaves, with sunset-colored costumes and warm lighting, brought the program to a close by weaving together twisting, turning partnering, a shining trio and solid ensemble work from the entire company.

The exuberant audience contained many young dancers (some of them students at the Madison Professional Dance Center, which is affiliated with the company), and I'm certain they were as impressed as I was with the dancing. As my friend said after the show, the performance was a welcome influx of color and energy into the slushy doldrums of winter.

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