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The Carletonian

Zenon Dance Company receives standing ovation for dynamic performance

<ast week the renowned Zenon Dance Company shared its tips and talents with Carleton, teaching dance classes and performing at the Weitz Theater on Friday evening. Now in its 36th season, Zenon continues to create a unique blend of modern and jazz that captivates audiences worldwide. The company is based in the Twin Cities and has toured near and far, from towns in the rural Midwest to cities like Havana, Budapest and St. Petersburg. Under founder and director Linda Z. Andrews, Zenon has worked with choreographers from both the Midwest and East Coast in an effort to promote an artistic connection between the two regions.

On Thursday, two members of Zenon, Sarah Steichen Stiles and Leslie O’Neill, taught a jazz class open to Carleton students. The pair brought great energy and enthusiasm throughout the hour and ten minutes of fast-paced dancing.

Several of the combinations were intense brain exercises involving intricate footwork, complex rhythms and direction changes. Other combinations were simpler and served as an opportunity to focus on the quality of movement. At the end of the class, Stiles and O’Neil shared part of the choreography from a work in their repertoire which required great energy and strength.

Several themes presented in the jazz class, such as the importance of eye focus, plié and attack, were evident in Zenon’s dancers during their performance on Friday. There was an overflowing house as extra chairs were brought in to accommodate many members of the Carleton and Northfield community who came to see the company. Zenon presented four works, each with a distinct style, starting with “Eternal Reveal” by New York choreographer Gregory Dolbashian. The piece showcased grounded, fluid movement and a fierce intensity.

The second dance, “Just Her Time,” was “a reflection on grief” choreographed by Minnesotan Wynn Fricke. This compelling work featured soloist Stiles accompanied by four dancers who progressively bathed her in water from a barrel on stage. One especially compelling and haunting moment was when Stiles sat on the edge of the barrel and slowly hinged backwards before arching her back completely until her head made contact with the ground. Like this moment, the movement throughout most of the piece was extremely controlled, as if moving through molasses.

The end of the piece became violent and desperate as Stiles whipped her wet hair in circles, throwing off arches of water, and pounded the barrel until the water flew through the air, soaking her from head to toe. The piece ended with a soaked Stiles curled in the fetal position while the group left her behind in an emotional and striking finish.

The next work, “Cutting Quartet,” was choreographed by New York choreographer Michelle Boulé with help from the performers. This jazzy piece featured many shifts in both music and quality of movement. The music alternated between funky, eerie silence while the movement ranged from subtle hip thrusts to frantic, expansive stretching of limbs.

Zenon’s final piece was “Pink Martini,” a ballroom work by Minnesota choreographer Mariusz Olsezwski. It began with a solo by Scott Mettille, who shined throughout the dance due to his compelling connection with the audience and his powerful and explosive yet controlled movement. Mettille was then joined by five more dancers to form three couples. Some sections of the piece were slinky, smooth and sensual while others were playful, sharp and sexy.

The choreography included complex footwork and impressive partnering with big lifts, dives and spins. The whole piece was extremely fun, and the audience whooped and hollered in approval, adding to the electric mood in the theater. Zenon’s talented dancers received a well-deserved standing ovation for their sintilizing performance.

Zenon Dance Company’s class and performance were incredibly inspiring and their visit has been a wonderful opportunity for Carleton’s dance department to unite the community through the power of movement. The company still has two more dance classes to teach in the upcoming few days before departing campus.

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