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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Karen McLane's "Crowning of the Woodland Queen" - Beautifully Danced, with Grace and Power

Karen McLane's The Crowning of the Woodland Queen - A Suitable Repertoire Work for Any Dance Company

The Crowning of the Woodland Queen, choreographed and produced by Karen McLane, Founder of the Ancient Rhythms Dance Troupe, introduces a powerful, versatile, and beautifully effective full-length work that can be used, adapted, and performed by a wide range of dance schools and troupes throughout the world. A lovely Youtube Teaser effectively captures the spirit of this performance.

In structure, style, and format, this work is similar in many ways to the much-loved Tchaikovsky Nutcracker:

  • Seasonally-themed, centered on spring instead of winter. (This alone makes it a useful construct for many dance companies who present a dance recital or major work each spring, highlighting their dancer's talents.)

  • A few main powerful characters, supported by a dance troupe with diverse performance abilities. The all-female cast relieves many dance directors of the need to scout for male dance talent. (If such were available, a "role" could easily be created and inserted into the work without greatly altering its structure or theme.) Three strong dancers are needed to carry the named roles.

  • Adaptable vignettes showcase individual, duo, and small group performances, fitting well into the storyline of the woodland spirits, nymphs, and sylphs dancing before the Woodland Queen. Essentially, within a dance theater group, all dancers worthy of performing can be cast into at least one role, satisfying the Dance Director's need to provide performance venue for all of her troupe members and senior students.

In short, this work is a Dance Director's dream; a cohesive and magnetic storyline, adaptable enough to be worked within almost any substantial troupe's size, stage, and budget. The opening dance vignettes can be altered nearly at will to accommodate available talent and to showcase their strengths. (Or to hide their weaknesses, as necessary.) To a reasonable extent (and as evidenced in Ms. McLane's choreography and production), a diverse range of dance styles can also be incorporated. (We again can thank Tchaikovsky for inspiration along these lines.)

To be effective, this work does require at least three very strong female leads. In this performance, these lead roles were capably and beautifully carried out by dancers strong enough to give their characters power, meaning, and depth.

  • The Shadow Queen, danced by Charise Hoge,

  • The Moon, danced by Troupe Director and Producer Karen McLane, and

  • The Woodland Queen, danced by Giulia Prati.

The most challenging and exciting role is actually not that of the Woodland Queen, bur rather that of the Queen of Shadows. It is always more difficult (and interesting) to portray a villain! Charise Hoge's interpretation drew on her core strengths; she infused her role with powerful elements reminiscent of warrior-movements from kung fu and T'ai Chi forms. Deep plies, low-to-the-ground weight shifts, and a strong whole-body connection all gave Ms. Hoge's character the requisite feeling of "dark power." Her background in yoga, modern dance, and jazz was readily apparent - all these were necessary to carry out a role that would have been diffused if the dancer had only classical Oriental dance training on which to call. Ms. Hoge's compelling portrayal brought the Queen of Shadows to a real and menacing life.

Giulia Prati, formerly with Columbia University, graciously and gracefully danced the role of the Woodland Queen. Ms. Prati's background includes Jazz Dance, Modern Dance, and African Dance. While the majority of her moves were lyrical, in the last-to-final Transformation dance with the Queen of Shadows (Charise Hoge), she proved an able match for the Shadow Queen, in both the deep work and the more flowing movements that ensued as the Shadow Queen was brought into alliance and integration.

Finally, Karen McLane's performance lent a delicate surreal nature as she portrayed the Moon. She was lyrical and graceful, shimmering in flowing gold sequins as the Moon come down to earth to bless the now-integrated (and thus more powerful and knowing) Woodland Queen, who had just healed the Queen of Shadows and brought her into her "Woodland" retinue.

Numerous other dancers, from both the Ancient Rhythms Dance Company and troupes both local and farther afield, enriched the Crowning with lively and beautiful performances.

1 comment:

city said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.