Solid Work from a Student Studio

4 stars

An entity calling itself “Classical Mechanics” produces this show, but it’s really Midwest Youth Dance Theatre from Roseville, MN, a close-in suburb of Saint Paul.  MYDT is a studio/school with a long and honorable history.

The majority, if not all, of the dancers in this production are not yet in college. Sometimes older students stay on past graduation, out of love and loyalty, but I don’t know the details of this year’s casting.

There are five pieces on this program, plus a sixth item, a sort of choreographed curtain call involving red balloons, entrances and exits, and bows, all set to energetic music.

The opening quartet, which included Artistic Director Margaret Marinoff herself, set to music by Arvo Part, was very technical and even classical. It wasn’t ballet per se. It used balletic vocabulary and training to present a more current concept and structure. What I saw was abstract, melding ballet arabesques and small quick steps into a piece about design.

The next piece involved six folding chairs and a sharp change of mood and music. This was sexy, jazzy, and set to decidedly contemporary music. Choreographed by Stacy Kotch, it was seemingly inspired by Bob Fosse’s concept for “Mein Leibe Herr” in the opening sequence of the film, “Cabaret.” There were many differences between this piece and the film, and very few movements or shapes that occur in both, but the similarity of concept and style was clear. Nothing wrong with that. Most paths have already been blazed and trodden, and it’s up to each generation to find its own way down these paths. I do have to say, however, that unison movement was often intended, and meant to be very sharp, but wasn’t always clean.

The fifth piece in the show began with a soloist seated on the floor, back to audience. There was music from the “Moving Music” soundtrack. The dancer had an opening solo. Ultimately this evolved into a group work for five, with each dancer also having a solo.

The opening soloist, a young woman named Conley Pitzl, delivered a superb performance, far beyond her years. It was nuanced, committed, clearly accurate to the intended choreography, and infused with that rarest of dancerly virtues – honest human spirit. Incidentally, I asked Artistic Director Margaret Marinoff after the show if it would be all right to name this dancer.

I don’t know what Ms. Pitzl thought or felt while she was delivering this solo. She might have been tight as an old-fashioned clock-spring, but pushing through to make the right stuff happen. She might have been slightly distracted and it caused a relaxation that in later years she will learn to seek and cultivate. She may have had a brilliant experience. She may have done the whole thing just how she rehearsed it, which would speak highly for the quality of the rehearsals.  This solo was a huge success for me as a viewer.

It was a solid show with several highlights. Congratulations to MYDT. Very young dancers are a challenge and a joy.