Change is in the air-not only in the weather and in politics, but also at Westmont College, where Change was the name of the student dance company’s fall recital. Taking transformation as their theme, artistic director Erlyne Whiteman and students Stacey Williams and Leah Benson choreographed five modern dance pieces, which were confidently executed by the 11-person ensemble.
The cultural changes of the 1960s were examined in part one of Whiteman’s The Beat : in which dancers Nolan Hamlin and Laura Mercado took a nostalgic trip back to the era of free love. Mercado and Hamlin were well matched, their bodies mirroring each other as they shimmied their long limbs and lanky frames to Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” Dramatic finger-snapping and swing dance moves accentuated the cheeseball exuberance and simplified gender roles of the time. In a comic twist that cleverly acknowledged the imminent arrival of feminism, the dance ended with the woman carrying the man offstage.
Changes catalyzed by faith were the theme for Stacey Williams’s Metanoia. Performed to P.D.A.’s version of “Fields of Gold,” the dance was a pure translation of Sting’s beautiful-but-sappy pop classic. The dancers were like a flock of delicate birds, moving in unison with a light, airy quality. Subtle gestures, like shoulder nudging, brought sophistication to the piece. With a video of red firelight projected onto their bodies, the dancers looked like Icarus trying to fly to the sun with wings of wax. Embodiments of fire and flight, they were perfect metaphors for the human struggle to encounter the divine.
Leah Benson’s An Amalgam of Action or a Mixture of Motion took love-induced changes as its focus. This was the most technically challenging piece of the evening, giving the seven dancers in it a chance to show off. Moving between catchy, romantic Brazilian ballads by CeU and Bill Withers’s heartbreaking Ain’t No Sunshine, the piece had the performers wheeling through thrilling acrobatic and yoga-inspired maneuvers. In the final of three sections, the dancers took turns balancing in half-handstands for extended periods. Highlighting human strength and fragility, An Amalgam used bodies in motion to express the many vulnerable, fleeting, and guarded faces of love.