A Solid First Step Forward
8&1 Dance Company premiered their presence and work on Friday, link March 23 at the Courtyard Theatre in Plano. Dallas’ newest jazz company founded by choreographer Jill S. Rucci presented an evening of work entitled, ampoule “Life’s Canvas,” based on a conversation Rucci had years ago.
She used that conversation to craft a monologue that opened the show. Performed by Stephanie Dolph, it seamlessly transitioned into the first piece “Finger Paining.” Utilizing live music performed by saxophonist Marcellus P. Walker and singer Christa D. Taylor, the dancers emerged dressed in while and each carrying a different colored streamer, similar to ones used in rhythmic gymnastics. As the dancers performed their individual solos they manipulated the streamers, giving the audience the illusion that they were painting on the white cyc behind them.
“A Round Corner” (2006) gave the ladies the chance to display their handle on the jazz technique vital to Rucci’s choreography, and let the men of 8&1 shine. Keith Clark, Darrell Cleveland, and Avery Wilson had the audience cheering as they exploded off the floor with giant leaps, seductive movement, and acrobatics.
The premieres of “Nevermind” and “Woman’s Work” (by guest choreographer Michael Mayes) that followed showed a softer side of the company. In “Nevermind,” Shelby A. Stanley’s solo explored the emotions behind a lost relationship. It was passionate and unconstrained, and showed what a powerful dancer Stanley is. “Woman’s Work” continued that idea, though in a quieter way.
“Pointillism” (2010) was a challenging undertaking both in musical choices and movement. It began with Gnarls Barkley then moved to Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin then the Zac Brown Band and then the Soweto Gospel Choir. The shifts were abrupt, startling, and at times confusing. The closing piece, “Work Song,” is one of Rucci’s older pieces and showcased the elements vital to jazz: a handle on tempo, impulse, and a control of the body coupled with a freedom of movement.
Overall, “Life’s Canvas” displayed the wide range of Rucci’s ideas for dance. She wants to create athletic movement that is challenging both performatively and musically, and she wants to tell stories that everyone can relate to. She has begun to work with multimedia, and hopefully, she will explore how to really utilized this medium. Maybe more video will be included, or creating an interaction between the dancers and the screen. It will be interesting to see where she goes next.
— DANIELLE M. GEORGIOU
Director of the UTA Dance Ensemble