It was billed as a show for older dancers, but Dance at the Top of the Hill was really an intergenerational celebration of dance, and a reminder to everyone to seize life with gusto. The program, organized by 62-year-old dancer Teresa Johnson and comprised entirely of choreography by artists age 40 or older, featured performers in their 60s alongside pre-teen and college-aged dancers. Whether they were delivering straight social dance numbers or more contemporary work, these performers shared a common purpose: to express their passion for dance.
The fourteen works in the program fell roughly into two categories: ethnic and social dances including belly dance, foxtrot, rumba, cha cha, and swing; and modern dance pieces with a more narrative or abstract quality. Dancing partners, co-choreographers, and married couple Derrick Curtis and Trudie Olsen-Curtis appeared in three separate social dance numbers: a flashy swing dance duet, a sultry rumba and cha cha piece, and finally in Johnson’s Lindy Hop quartet “Crazy Legs,” for which the choreographer and their daughter Kassidy both joined in. David Alvarez and Alison Allan took the stage for “Razzle Dazzle”-a sparkling foxtrot in which Allan’s flashy, open-back ball gown nearly stole the show-and returned for a fierce American Tango. And Beth Amine, the oldest participant in the show, gave one of the evening’s most spirited performances with “Arabesque,” a sexy belly dance solo complete with zills and silky veils.
Interspersed between these crowd-pleasers were the modern dance works, which varied widely in both style and technique. Johnson’s solo, “Only in Your Arms:a memoir,” was the story of a lost love affair, rendered in a balletic idiom but peppered with sharp, staccato movements. Erlyne Whiteman and her daughter Tara also combined elements of ballet and modern dance in their duet, “Mom-ents.” Choreographer Robert Salas presented two works featuring dancers from Moorpark College. “Camille Claudel: of Dreams and Nightmares” was a dramatic, narrative group work inspired by the story of the French female sculptor, while “Reunification” was a charged duet set to the hard, industrial rock of Nine Inch Nails, the dancers costumed in tight black garments crisscrossed with zippers and buckles.
Choreographer Misa Kelly and dancer Melissa Block appeared in two of Kelly’s athletic, quirky duets: “Under No Certain Circumstances,” and “Grit.” In both works, the dancers conveyed a layered relationship to one another, one moment resting their heads together, the next moment frisking each another like security guards. Though there was no larger narrative evident in their antics, many moments carried small stories: sisters in cahoots, women in competition, friends protecting one another from inner demons. Dancer Monica Robles joined Kelly and Block for Stephen Kelly’s abstract trio “Lucky Ducks,” in which frenzied footwork and snappy turns were set to African rhythms.
In one of the evening’s most tender dances, choreographers Mindy Horwitz and Steven Lovelace performed “The Lost Ones.” Dressed in business clothes and dozing while slouched in straight-backed chairs, they woke to find themselves alone and disoriented. When they discovered one another, their dance of attraction was hesitant and halting, full of the innocence of young love. No matter their age, every performer in this program brought passion to the stage, taking a moment to revel in the timelessness between lights up and blackout.