Laura Vernaci, KCMetropolis.org
Owen/Cox Dance Group’s presentation of “The Goldberg Variations” represented a collaboration with pianist Kairy Koshoeva and a fresh new style and subject of performance for the innovative Kansas City dance troupe.
On Saturday night at UMKC’s White Recital Hall, Owen/Cox Dance Group’s only showing of The Goldberg Variationsboasted a worthy turnout. Not known for lavish costumes and rarely relying on props or scenery, OCDG gave a performance based on pure movement and music. The decision to stage the nearly two-hour, full-length presentation of J.S. Bach’s Aria plus 30 variations stemmed from an earlier demonstration at ArtSounds at the Kansas City Art Institute last fall. Kairy Koshoeva proposed the collaboration to Owen, who accepted the challenge.
The two artists, along with a corps of 11 other dancers, brought to life the diversity of Bach’s slow and methodical, and contrastingly speedy variations. Koshoeva dexterously switched between the two, setting the mood for both the dancers and the audience. Although audience members weren’t physically involved, a subconscious level of engagement was unavoidable.
Owen’s distinctive style of ballet with a modern à la carte flair was ever-present. Her short stature does not prevent her exceptional use of space, especially in this work which consisted of dizzying formation changes throughout. Variation 24 took this to another level, resembling an intricate Maypole dance sans actual pole.
As a dancer, Owen always is pleasant to watch. She exudes confidence and humility, while rendering her spirit. Although she has mastered speed and comedy, she looked especially peaceful in her soliloquy at the beginning of Variation 25, so much so that it was a shame she didn’t continue the remainder of the section by herself.
Each variation stood alone distinctly but together they complemented and built on one another. The dancers were dispersed among them in different combinations, some successful and others lacking cohesion and excitement.
Kansas City Ballet dancer Molly Wagner stood out in several variations. She and Geoffrey Kropp danced with ease in Variation 3, and later in Variation 6 she joined Catherine Russell for an exquisitely harmonious and agile allegro in which both women demonstrated athletic dynamics. Wagner united with Michael Davis in the extended Variation 14 that began as mirroring solos, eventually joining together. The couple created a beautiful balance and made for suitable counterparts.
Logan Pachciarz also emerged from his group sections displaying elegant form and classical technique, an opportunity he rarely receives. Another highlight of the show was Variation 22, featuring Owen, Russell, and Sarah Chun. The three women dazzled the stage with bright ballet sequences.
Variation 10, a four-piece fughetta, inspired a quirky and ultimately comical men’s piece. Rounding out the program, Variation 26 was another all-male section that received exorbitant applause for its succession of impressive tricks.
The best trick of all though had to be when Koshoeva’s sheet music fell from the piano and she continued to play the demanding score without missing a beat. While the dancers found reprieve in their breaks offstage, Koshoeva effortlessly executed Bach’s comprehensive composition with flawless fingers.
The change of pace and backdrop for the Owen/Cox Dance Group was a nice surprise with an amusing disposition and a gratifying conclusion.