Dancer Amara Galloway by Andre Yew

A giddy crowd of vaccinated dance fans filled Center Stage Theater for this initial live performance of the post-pandemic. Organized and presented by choreographer Meredith Cabaniss Ventura and the Selah Dance Collective, the evening featured a complete program of 14 works — five on video and the other nine in person. Choreographers and dancers from State Street Ballet joined in the collective for this performance and brought some great work to the stage.

The evening’s title work, choreographed by Cabaniss Ventura and the company of nine dancers, made it abundantly clear that dance is back in a big way. Bryn Gallagher, Amara Galloway, Arianna Hartanov, Amanda Keller, Ashley Kohler-Reynolds, Tara McAninch, Daisy Mohrman, Rachyl Pines, and Chloé Roberts turned this country ballad of a lovesick girl into a bittersweet meditation on the strange quarantine life that just broke things off with all of us. A glitchy, hyper-stylized video called “tock tick” by Juli Farley used both music and the voice of Kurt Vonnegut reading from Slaughterhouse-Five to mesmerizing effect. Farley’s digital avant-gardism set the stage perfectly for the evening’s second in-person performance: a thrilling solo choreographed by Cecily Stewart MacDougall for Ahna Lipchik. Riffing on the finale of The Nutcracker, MacDougall and Lipchik told a story of radical self-transformation to powerful effect. Arianna Hartanov’s Bach-driven quartet “observation of memory” closed the first half of the program with an abundance of choreographic ideas and variations, all set to the music of Bach as played by Ravenna Lipchik.

Sio Tepper, Gianna Burright, and Meredith Lyons brought us all back in after intermission with “a study in seeing and being seen,” a clever and subtle piece with a moving piano. The evening concluded with three powerful new works by the collective, one choreographed by Amanda Keller and the rest by Cabaniss Ventura. I can’t think of a better way to come back to the theater than with great dance like this.

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