Valdosta Daily Times

October 4, 2013

‘On the Edge’ will keep audiences on the edge of their seats

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — With “On the Edge,” Valdosta State University Repertory Dancers proves again why the dance concert has returned annually for nearly 30 years.

Through the choreography of VSU Dance instructors Sarah Wildes Arnett, Eric Brandt Nielsen and Catherine A. Schaeffer, these dance concerts are energetic, colorful, lively, thought provoking, foot tapping, funny, beautiful, emotional, and a whole slew of adjectives that should cascade like tossed rose bouquets at the feet of these talented choreographers and student dancers.

If you don’t like one dance, wait, you may like the next one. “On the Edge” features eight dances, with a few moments of house lights serving as a palette cleanser for the soul between each performance.  

“Attic Antics.” Choreographer: Nielsen. Motion capture animation: Hollis Barnett. Antoinette Williams, Kada-Krystal Mitchell, Elizabeth Michelle Adams, Melanna Kegley, Kristen Keebler. Motion capture dancers: Arnett and Schaeffer. Costume designer: Kathy Raess-Young. Scenic, lighting designer: Ruth A. Brandvik. Nielsen uses his marvelous narrative style to frame the use of Motion Capture technology, featuring live dancers as animated gremlins and other strange beings. The live dancers find these strange creations in various boxes in an attic. A screen on stage reveals the animation, the live dancers falling under the hypnotic sway of the animated creatures’ movements. The screen should be larger to showcase the animation, but otherwise, a fun mix of technology inserted into dance.

“a strange(r) (a)fare.” Choreographer: Arnett, with cast contributions. Dancers: Leah Kelly, Andrew Ritfeld. Costumes: Esther Iverson. Scenic, lighting design: Brandvik. Arnett creates a compelling duet set around the tableau of a couple seated at the opposite ends of a long dinner table. She uses all of her smoking guns: Kelly and Ritfeld dance on the table top, on the chairs, all is utilized in the sparse piece about a couple that seems ready to take remarkable steps as individuals but seem unable to take a step together. That said, Kelly and Ritfeld have all the right moves for this dysfunctional couple.

“Crystal Ballroom Part I.” Choreographer: Nielsen and Ron Montez. Dancers: Sharia Stripling, Joshua Barcol, Hannah Kortrey, Andrew Ritfeld, Tehya Malone, Keith Simmons, Alexandra Stewart, Rocky Harris. Costumes: Raess-Young. Lighting: Travis Hunnewell. Nielsen and Montez present a traditional ballroom dance routine. Four couples elegantly moving to Linda Eder’s “There Was a Time.” A smart tip of the hat to the popularity of ballroom dancing on the dance floor and on reality TV shows.

“Marrow.” Choreographer: Schaeffer. Dancers: Alainna Batchelor, Helen Foster Brown, Makeda Bryce, DeVante Graham, Leah Kelly, Tehya Malone, Kada Mitchell, Esmond Pickett, Antoinette Williams. Costumes: Schaeffer, Iverson. Lighting: Brandvik. Schaeffer presents a dance with a fierce edge. In one rush, dancers leap forward and almost physically challenge the audience. Schaeffer’s dances always evoke both passion and thought.


“Dirt & Glitter.” Choreographer: Arnett, cast contributions. Dancers: Tess Buis, Sierra Jordan, Hannah Kortrey, Ben McGaha, Andrew Ritfeld, Taylor Singletary, Kia Street, Sharia Stripling, Jesse Vickers. Video: Arnett. Costumes: Iverson. Lighting: Hunnewell. Arnett and her company of dancers perform a neat trick here. They successfully relate satire through dance. It works. Smart phones, Miley Cyrus, celebrities, believing crass is creativity. It’s all here. Masked as celebration, Arnett makes the case for a scathing indictment against modern culture.

“Dying Swan.” Choreographer: Nielsen based on the traditional choreography of Mikhail Fokine. Dancer: Haley Sheppard. Costume: Raess-Young. Lighting: Hunnewell. In some ways, this is the most subversive dance in the show. Amidst the Motion Capture animation, video montages, abstract concepts, the big ballroom dances, Nielsen presents a traditional tutu-wearing ballerina performing classical ballet to the music of Saint-Saens’ “The Dying Swan.” What would have once seemed safe and expected in a dance show has become the bold stroke. Sheppard presents a magnificent performance. Bravo!

“Crystal Ballroom Part II.” Dancers: Sharia Stripling, Joshua Barcol, Hannah Kortrey, Andrew Ritfeld, Tehya Malone, Keith Simmons, Alexandra Stewart, Rocky Harris. Choreographer: Nielsen and Montez. Costumes: Raess-Young. Lighting: Hunnewell. A sizzling ballroom dance number set to Rosemary Clooney singing “Sway.”

“Groove.” Choreographer: Schaeffer. Dancers: DeVante Graham, Jonathan Gray, Kelsey Johnson, Leah Kelly, Ben McGaha, Rachelle Sanford, Tess Buis, Rocky Harris, Hannah Kortrey, ShaDaijah Jackson, Kelsey Johnson, Taylor Singletary, Megan Stewart, Kia Street, Sharia Stripling. A grand finale of emotional loss and personal redemption that combines Schaeffer’s seeming recurring theme that for things to come together, they must first be pulled apart.

VSU Repertory Dancers’ “On the Edge,” part of the VSU Theatre & Dance season, continues 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, Oct. 4, 5; 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, Sawyer Theatre, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. Tickets, more information: Call (229) 333-5973; or visit