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Lights, camera, dance

The lights dimmed at UMBC’s Proscenium Theater where the sounds of landing feet and loud applause resounded. The Baltimore Dance Project takes to UMBC’s stage every year with new performances of modern dance that challenge the status quo.

Founded in 1982, the company presents the work of Doug Hamby, Carol Hess and Sandra Lacy, all of whom are also members of the UMBC dance faculty. The company’s goal is to bring together “edgy collaborations with composers, directors and sound artists with visual media and technology” to create truly unique performances.

This was especially evident in this month’s performance in which the sets, music and lights within each dance were equally as dynamic and important as the dances themselves. The opening piece entitled, “Shooting Gallery,” choreographed by Carol Hess, used a combination of curtains, a video camera and sound effects of breaking glass and gunshots to create a disturbing yet beautiful experience.

The two dancers, Desiree Koontz-Nachtrieb and Miguel Ledesma, moved beautifully across the stage until, nearing the end of the piece, they brought out a video camera and recorded each other. The audience saw the video camera’s feed projected onto the small curtain on stage, creating an eerie scene.

Another piece, entitled, “Giving Up the Ghost,” choreographed and performed by Sandra Lacy, used props in a way that no one would forget. Lacy’s smooth and dramatic movements along with the intense music created a spellbinding dance to watch. For this piece’s finale, Lacy pulled out handfuls of small feathers from seemingly nowhere and kept them floating in the air with her movements.

The Baltimore Dance Project is quite skilled at creating this sense of wonder through simple props and lighting, a talent that is accentuated with their dedication to modern dance. Another example could be seen in the piece entitled “Placed in Here,” choreographed and performed by Ann Sofie Clemmensen and Tim Bendernagel.

In the piece, the two dancers were ‘restricted’ within a few pieces of wood fashioned in the form of a box. However, throughout the dance, the wooden frame lifted off the stage, ‘liberating’ the dancers to move further around the set. At one point, the lighting changed to give the illusion of four, not two dancers on the stage. This simple change was immensely powerful to the overall dance, giving it yet another unique mark of artistic creativity.

The Baltimore Dance Project is a delight to behold time and time again as they never fail to deliver. The company has had a great road to success with its sixteen individual artist awards from the Maryland State Arts Council as well as having original work performed in theaters and festivals around the nation.  The company is also a part of the Baltimore County Take A Leap Dance Celebration, which is a collection of dance performances from companies and schools around the county.

Throughout the semester, UMBC Dance Department has performances such as Senior Dance Concert and Spring Dance showcase in April and May 2019. These ticketed events are discounted for UMBC students and staff. Students who treat themselves to a night at the recital will not regret seeing the art these dancers create and perform.