diverse and spirited

Each dance opens with a brief video from the choreographer describing the work in one word and answering an additional question about either the piece or the company. The curtain closes, letting the words linger with you for the whole piece.

With such an approach, you get an immediate understanding of what the choreographer aims to express. With descriptions ranging from “sensitive” to “shattering” to “driving,” there’s a lot of emotional ground to cover in two hours, but the sheer span of subject matter keeps things exciting. The dancers bring cohesion to the program despite the different numbers, showing their familiarity with each other as a company.


You’re lulled one moment by Kiera Brinkley’s peaceful dance to “The Gravel Road” (a simple song led primarily by a graceful violin and light touches of piano), all warm lighting and fluid circles, kicks and lines, flowing like water as the dancers pulse and move easily around each other.

The next moment, you’re in a stark, surreal world, with dancers dressed in white and vaguely resembling eggs. “It’s important to remember to play,” says choreographer Yulia Arakelyan in the introduction video, and this dance certainly feels like play. Crouched in folding chairs, dancers snap unfeeling stares around the room and make jerky movements to a comparatively harsher rock-electronic song. At the end, strobe lights illuminate the company, still egg-like and wiggling their arms in a way that brings to mind those inflatable balloon men that advertise sales at furniture stores. If you can quickly adapt to the party-like shift in mood, it’s great fun.


Other highlights include Briley Neugbauer’s “Derailed,” depicting broken dreams—featuring a commanding performance by M’Liss Stephenson, a founding member of Polaris—as well as Stephenson’s “Fragment.” Well-timed with an intricate song (Macklemore’s instrumental “Bom Bom”), the dance, described as “detonate,” unfolds gently in a flurry of piano. Beginning with gentle arm movements and kicks, the dancers moves easily together before building to a strong, explosive series of individual crackles that fit with the music.

This diversity is the obvious but effective theme of a program like Hand Picked, and it’s one the company carries out well, making the night fun for dance noobs and experts alike.

SEE IT: Hand Picked is at Polaris Contemporary Dance Center, 1501 SW Taylor St., 380-5472. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, June 7-8 and Wednesday-Saturday, June 12-15. $17.50-$25. Tickets here.