Celebrating their first ten years as a company, Dance Generators West is an intergenerational dance ensemble in the USF department of performing arts and social justice. Throughout the past two weeks, they have put on multiple dance performances in Kalmanovitz Hall, using the theme of “Ten” to shape their dances. Dance Generators is different from most companies as they are inclusive of all ages, so they have members ranging from their teenage years to their 80s. “The company disrupts preconceived notions about who gets to dance, where dance takes place, and what dances are about,” they wrote in their program. In the show I saw on Thursday, the unconventional ensemble dazzled audience members with their creative, theatrical and original dance pieces.
The show began in the lobby of Kalmanovitz Hall, moved to the rooftop and then down to the amphitheatre in front of the building. In the lobby, we watched three dancers interact with their surroundings in a contemporary dance style. They theatrically communicated with fellow dancers, with some outside the front doors and others peering down through the skylight above. They communicated through soft, dreamlike pointing and hand movement, and also with longing, stressed facial expressions. After watching a bit of partner movements and interactions with the arch in the foyer, we were instructed to move up to the rooftop. We gathered under the sun, standing and sitting on benches provided, to watch this eccentric dance company perform as a whole.
On the rooftop, the audience was involved in demonstrations based off of the theme of the show, “Ten;” a pondering of counting, numbers, bodies, and the number ten. The audience was asked to contribute how to count in various languages, what words include the word “ten”, and how they might express that word with their body (i.e.,for “tent” we held our hands to form a triangle above our heads.) The show unfolded into fluid choreography, improvisation, audience participation and breaks in the music for the dancers to deliver a few lines throughout.
After the first piece, some dancers went down to the amphitheater below and the others became part of the audience. The USF Chinese Percussion Ensemble took the floor on the rooftop. Throughout the Chinese percussion drum piece, the audience overlooked the amphitheatre from above and watched the dancers perform a combination of choreography and individual improvisation, geared upwards. We were challenged by the companies co-directors to find ten different spots on the rooftop to enjoy the dancers, drums, or both.
At the end of that piece, we relocated for the final time down to meet the dancers in the amphitheater and watched a very sweet, final dance to Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.” Every dancer had a partner and switched them up frequently, some were even members of the audience. The final bow was done to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and implored us to get involved with the company and provided various ways to do so.
The show was an offbeat, amusing, and heartwarming display of their mission statement, “Through dance, the company shatters commonly held stereotypes about aging, and creates bridges between people of all ages.”