The BETA Dance Festival is the first local artist festival that I have seen since moving to the valley that showcased a variety of contemporary and avante garde work, works in progress, and finished pieces. The work that was presented was articulate and mature, and the performers showed amazing commitment. There were so many submissions to the festival that it had to be divided into two shows. This is a review of the later show at 9pm.
Julie Akerly closed the first half of the second show with her witty and fun The Cat Says, “WTF Is In The Bag?” The piece was a perfect mix of contemporary choreography and the avante-garde. This out-of-the-box piece had a nice flow to it, each event transitioning smoothly into the next. The choreography was complex and fun, requiring the four dancers to be able to shift from ballet, to contemporary, to club dancing, while performing the movement with over the top drama and sincerity. Akerly expertly brought the four dancers together to create a fantastic ensemble while still allowing each member of the group to shine in his or her own way. As Akerly scooted off stage on her garbage bag, leaving her cohorts behind, there was only one question: WTF is in the bag?
The next piece, Espiritu Del Agua, choreographed by Diane McNeal Hunt was an abrupt, but welcome departure from Akerly’s comedic work. Alan Khoutakoun performed this unearthly piece with amazing grace and virtuosity. Each movement, whether it was an astounding extension or a simple gesture of the hands, was given equal care and attention. The movement and costume combined gave the performer an androgynous appearance that was captivating.
The entire show was filled with committed, articulate, and astounding dancers. The Phoenix Center for the Arts theatre was easy to find, and appropriate for audience size. However, the stage needs to improve its lighting capabilities. Performers frequently disappeared into darkness when they moved too far up or down stage, further shrinking the already small stage. Without side lighting, the performers became one-dimensional and choreography became muddled and flat. The show was about an hour long, which a good length. However, audience attention and attendance suffered because of the time that the show started. If the time in between the two shows had been shortened to an hour, the mixer would have been more effective, and more patrons from the first show would have attended the second. Hopefully, this is the first of many festivals in Phoenix that provides an opportunity for local Valley artists as well as emerging artists to share their work.
Reviewed by Eleanor Hanafin
June 21, 9pm Show