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Thursday, February 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 7.0° F  Fair
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UW Dance's Facets explores a continuum of emotions with ballet, poetry, music and visual art
Having so much young talent bodes well for the department.
Credit:Kat Cameron

Marlene Skog, a UW Dance Department faculty member, reveals her liaisons with mediums such as music, visual art and spoken-word poetry in Facets, a contemporary ballet performance at Lathrop Hall's H'Doubler Performance Space. The show runs through Saturday, Nov. 17.

I'd seen Facets' first two pieces before, but both seemed fresher and stronger Thursday night. In "Swan," Skog's main collaborator, musician and composer Carol Carlson, riffs on Saint-Saëns' melancholy piece The Swan. Carlson brings a jolt of modernity to it, and painter Dale Malner's stark, abstract black-and-white panels help set the scene and mood. Marguerite Luksik, whom I've always admired in Madison Ballet productions, and Cody E. Olsen make a fine pair onstage.

New costuming from Peggy Choy gives the piece a facelift. Instead of wearing a tutu, Luksik sports a sleek, dark unitard. A large, white feather design winds around her flexible back, showing that she is secure enough in her technique to take chances. Like a helicopter's propeller, her powerful legs move in large circles as she lies on the ground.

"Village," a piece for nine dancers, has many striking moments. Each dancer wears a red tunic with a band of brown at the bottom. In the beginning, they fold themselves into curled pods while Carlson draws the audience in with her beautiful music. Skog is smart to begin the piece with stillness, which hints at what's coming next. The dancing is good, and many of the dancers are sophomores.

Having so much young talent bodes well for the department. I've praised Shoshanna Moyer and Flora Hyoin Kim before, so I'll focus on Victoria Iannuzzi and Shauna Shrewsbury this time. Strong and tough, Iannuzzi plays with dynamics, while Shrewsbury emanates sincerity and pleasure, using her eyes to connect with the audience and other dancers.

"Exit/No Exit" is a duet for two excellent dancers, Sarah Mitchell and Elizabeth Sexe. Often perched on chairs, they survey the environment around them, supporting each other. Their legs skitter outward to new territory, then return to the security of their partnership. LaLa Bolander, one of the UW's First Wave scholars, accents the piece with spoken-word poetry about her relationship with her sister. With Bolander as a bridge, the piece segues into "Passages," a solo for Petra Weith. Always a formidable presence, Weith intentionally teeters on the precipice, using her pointe shoes to good effect.

The jolly "Rock/Paper/Scissors!" closes the program. Rollicking music from Carlson and three other musicians gives the piece a playful feel, as does a merry painting from Malner that I'd be happy to own. "Rock/Paper/Scissors!" looks like fun to perform, but its frivolity seems forced and started to wear on me. For example, it was a bit too cute when Carlson handed a cowbell to Henry Holmes. Cuteness aside, Mitchell and Weith seem to exhibit limitless potential. Mitchell looks completely at home in every piece I've seen her perform, which is a rare quality in the world of dance.

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