Dancers to demonstrate women strength through concert

Donned in gruesome face masks, members of SF State’s dance company’s writhed about the stage in a nightmarish dance of demons inspired from ancient Japanese folklore.

The company’s upcoming dance piece, “Kijo,” is just one of the many multicultural works featured in this year’s University Dance Theater concert “Return and Renew.”

The annual spring concert will exhibit the ensemble’s performance artistry through six dance pieces starting April 9 through April 11.

The choreography showcased in the concert consists of contemporary fusion selections adapted from traditional Filipino, Japanese, Ukrainian and Indian dances, according to the company’s director Cathleen McCarthy.

SF State dancers rehearse choreography for Kamala Devam's piece "The Shedding" Tuesday, April 7. It will be performed at this year's spring concert Return and Renew on Saturday. (Hyunha Kim / Xpress)

SF State dancers rehearse choreography for Kamala Devam’s piece “The Shedding” Tuesday, April 7. It will be performed at this year’s spring concert Return and Renew on Saturday. (Hyunha Kim / Xpress)

SF State dance major Erica Lopez, 21, acts as the dance company’s co-administrative student director alongside Kalinowski. Lopez said she feels empowered dancing beside 13 other strong women whose personal relationships within their ensemble have produced a high level of commitment to their concerted efforts.

“Since most of us have danced together since freshman year, we have a solid understanding of each other’s abilities as dancers,” Lopez said. “We want to elevate each other to perform our best, as well as support each other as friends.”

While some of the choreography calls for a group of male and female roles, this season’s company will perform each work as an all-woman cast.

McCarthy said there weren’t any men who were ready to dance in the company this year, so she enlisted the strongest female dancers into the male roles. Each of the dancers she chose showed advanced technique, excellence in classes and exceptional professionalism, according to McCarthy.

This year’s production marks the fifth anniversary of partnership between SF State’s dance troupe and contemporary arts institution Oberlin Dance Company. With nearly 40 years of residence in San Francisco, ODC has established its reputation as one of the West Coast’s most active centers for dance, their website said.

McCarthy said that working with ODC in preparation for the spring concert is the highlight of the year for SF State’s dancers.

“It’s a learning experience that allows our students to be treated like professionals,” McCarthy said. “After working with ODC, they come back working way harder with higher expectations for themselves and their peers.”

An SF State dancer rehearse's choreography for Kamala Devam's piece "The Shedding" in the spot light Tuesday, April 7. (Hyunha Kim / Xpress)

An SF State dancer rehearse’s choreography for Kamala Devam’s piece “The Shedding” in the spot light Tuesday, April 7. (Hyunha Kim / Xpress)

To prepare for the spring concert, SF State’s dancers go to ODC’s performing arts training center in the Mission to work with the company on their collaboration piece.

This year, the SF State dance company will perform “Unintended Consequences” choreographed by ODC’s artistic director, Brenda Way.

The piece speaks about the lack of public responsibility toward nature and the social cost of “every man for himself” attitude, Way said.

Way said that the student dance company at SF State is among her favorite university groups to work with and is happy to continue collaborating with the dance program as long as it is available to students.

“I’ve been both impressed and delighted to work with the students at San Francisco State because of their degree of skill and social awareness,” Way said.

Lopez said her experience working with ODC and Way was inspiring because the company’s professional dancers worked with the students on an individual level to help them understand the dance and convey its underlying message.

“As dancers, we express our thoughts an emotions through movement,” Lopez said. “It’s a privilege to work with such a prominent company as ODC, because it gives us the opportunity to learn so much as artists.”

Time: 8 p.m.

Location: McKenna Theater

Cost: $5 – $15

For more information: SF State Box Office

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