Dancers in Company celebrate 36th year with home concert

The UI touring ensemble performed a diverse mix of contemporary dances at Space Place Theater, weaving athleticism, beauty, humor, and absurdity into the home concert.


Jake Maish for The Daily Iowan

Michael Landez and Juliet Remmers perform a piece during a dress rehearsal of the Dancers in Company 2020 Home Concert on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 at the Space Place Theater in North Hall.

Addie Bushnell, Arts Reporter

Dancers in Company, the University of Iowa’s touring ensemble, held the opening night of their home concert tonight at 8 p.m. in Space Place Theater.

The show, which consists of six works of contemporary dance, will run through Feb. 29 at the UI.

Celebrating its 36th year, the home concert featured a variety of dance styles and a diverse array of talented choreographers. This is the only home concert that the company will hold in 2020, and the dancers and directors clearly put their all into the show.

This will be the last performance of Dancers in Company under their current name. Next year, the group will be rechristened as the UI Dance Company, with the hope that the new name will better represent its goals and its connection to the UI Dance Department, according to director George de la Peña and associate director Alex Bush.

The show began with And Let’s Go, an energetic work that featured music performed by the Hawkeye Marching Band drumline as its backing track. The dancers looked like they were warming up for a sporting event as they stretched, leapt, and kicked, capturing in every movement the pure athleticism of dance.

Most of the show strayed from the bursting, rigorous energy of And Let’s Go. The atmosphere of the concert was reflective — many of the pieces were strange and thought-provoking. Some of the works incorporated bizarre background effects or featured dancers making wild facial expressions and nonsensical noises. Others were slower and even sorrowful at times, allowing the dancers to show off their grace and flexibility.

Damper Lifted Oblivion was the work that was the most moving. The stunning movements constructed by faculty choreographer Tony Orrico were executed beautifully by the dancers. The four dancers were dressed in white jumpsuits reminiscent of prison garb or straightjackets, and their hair flew around their heads, loosened from any bindings.

Graduate student Mariko Ishikawa and third-year dance major Dharmini Piekarska’s individual performances in Damper Lifted Oblivion were particularly mesmerizing, and their emotional connection to the piece was undeniable.

Charlotte Lawrence, a guest choreographer at the UI, choreographed two of the six works in the concert. I Shall Wear My Trousers Rolled, a piece inspired by T.S. Eliot’s The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, was an impressive feat that explored a diverse range of emotions. Retro gramophone music played in time with the lovely choreography. At times, the dance turned melancholy.

One particularly charming and flirtatious section of the piece had the audience giggling as graduate student Michael Landez tried everything to impress his dance partner. I Shall Wear My Trousers Rolled often gave the spotlight to Landez, who smoothly transitioned between graceful beauty and cheeky lightheartedness in his performance.

The show ended with Women’s Resistance, an excerpt from Les écailles de la mémoire (The Scales of Memory). This work matched the energy of And Let’s Go, but with a more powerful message etched in its choreography. Each dancer looked strong, even aggressive, on the stage. The piece was unmatched in its sensuality and passion. While every dancer was at the height of their power in Women’s Resistance, Pierkaska and graduate student Juliet Remmers stood out from the ensemble.

Dancers in Company put on an incredibly volatile performance. The style of the works were often hard to define, and almost all contained elements of the strange, the sad, and the joyous. Ishikawa, who performed in four of the six works in what was nearly a two hour show, was a beautiful, resilient dancer and a treat to watch.