The Kalamazoo College dance company Frelon decided to expand their normally annual showcase to a Fall/Spring split. Tonight, the talented group showed off their affinity for all things art, not just dance, but also spoken word poetry, music, and interpretive performance. Frelon extended an invitation to all talented students within the Kalamazoo College community, giving them an opportunity to creatively express themselves in front of an audience in Dalton Theater, Light Fine Arts. Not only that, but this year Frelon has created a grant to help students in the tricollege area complete any their art-related projects. This grant was made possible through collaboration with the Arts Council of Kalamazoo (http://www.kalamazooarts.com/). Katy Ehlert, one of Frelon‘s six senior-directors, says that “the big qualification for it is that these artists have to support Kalamazoo and have an impact on the Kalamazoo community in general.”
The short performance of “Arts, Feets & Beats” was divided into two acts, both of which contained a pleasing amount of every element the show had to offer (dance, song, etc.). Although I want to avoid critiquing the individual performances, some of them really stood out, especially “Mercy”, choreographed by Katy Ehlert, “Crestfallen Angel”, an original song by Chris Hutchinson, and “Nightingale”, performed by Natalie Brazeau, Laura Fox, and Claire Lindley.
The dance numbers of “Arts, Feets & Beats”, of which there were six, were probably the least interesting aspects of the show, although they were far from boring. With the exception of the “Mercy” tap number, most of the choreography was amateur ballet mixed with totally unexploited modern Tharpism. Every time I saw something great and original, it was followed by a jeté or a plié, techniques which some of the dancers couldn’t perform very well, especially in strict unison. The Frelon directors, Katy Ehlert, Anna Hassan, Kristen Jost, Laura Marshall, Blayne Milbeck, and Marina Takagi, performed in almost every dance. They’re the directors for good reason: not only are they seniors at Kalamazoo College, but they were also the best dancers on-stage, always keeping positive energy and poise, which made them a real treat to watch.
The second act, which began with a reading by our very own Entertainment Editor Joseph Schafer, was outstanding. Whether purposefully or not, the ambiance, the lighting, and the physical performances of the second half were much more cohesive than those of the first. It was as though the pieces had fallen into place, which is not to say that the performances of the first act lacked in any way; it was the act itself that was trumped by its twin. “I love you guys. This poem is deep. It’s about the ocean,” said Schafer, who beat out his second poem in a way that perfectly transitioned into Ben Cooper’s original instrumental “Oklahoma Revisited.”
Furthermore, the second act really utilized the space of Dalton Theater to its advantage. Specifically, the “Rhinoceros” performance by the Kalamazoo College Theater Department and the song “Nightingale”, performed by those previously mentioned, truly allowed the audience to succumb to the experience and the abstraction of space. This with the duller tones of the lighting (which deserves much credit) made for a positively eclectic experience.
Like all college student performances, however, “Arts, Feets & Beats” was hurt by its audience, who cat-called, yelled, and screamed out names at every available opportunity. Although Frelon has a history of eliciting such reaction, it’s still unnecessary. Whether or not it bolsters the performance and the performers, it cheapens the experience for those who are not screaming and cat-calling. For example, the last dance “Green Light”, choreographed by Erik Aiken and Blayne Milbeck (another noteworthy performer) was a perfect end to the drabber tone of the second act. It was upbeat, yet repressive. It was ecstatic, yet exhausting. And it was almost ruined by the people behind me.
All in all, “Arts, Feets & Beats” was a worthwhile show which deserves a second performance. Every performer should be proud of themselves. Frelon should congratulate itself especially for organizing such a wonderful show for such a wonderful cause. If you missed “Arts, Feets & Beats”, make sure to see Frelon‘s regular Spring show at Kalamazoo College during Spring of 2010.