Cloudless: On the Edge

Alyssa Perez

A wide range of students and families piled into the Brehmer Theater on November 10 to see the award winning modern dance troupe, Susan Marshall and Company perform their Cloudless for the Colgate Community.

Once the performance began, it was evident that this was no simple or tame mix of ballet and modern dance. The Company is one that has no fear of pushing boundaries and implementing numerous elements and outlets to do so. In fact, this is what Marshall is best known for.

Each dance was an independent vignette performed by up to five dancers. Some of the most unusual and impressive dances were “The Sound,” “Frame Dance,” and “Solo for Five.”

In both “The Sound” and “Solo for Five” numerous dancers must keep constant contact with one another as they perform. The first requires that two performers continually keep their hands over each other’s mouths throughout the dance. The second re-enacts the building of a skyscraper with four dancers pulling and prodding a fifth into upright and fallen positions.

“I was astounded by the sheer ability of these dancers,” first-year Rachael Million-Perez said. “They were able to solely use their bodies to illustrate and express emotion. At times the utter power of their movements scared me. I was forced, as an audience member, to search inside myself to find the deeper meaning of their dance, which made it truly awe-defying.”

“Frame Dance” was an excellent example of Marshall’s use of multiple mediums in her art. A projector projects on to a screen while the dancers are crammed one on top of another into a frame laid on stage. While the dancers wriggle and move within the frame and interact with one another, the audience watches their progress on the screen.

Cloudless had a simplistic yet beautiful set design, mainly composed of white screens with projections displayed on them and simple, if mismatched, costuming. As a result the audience was able to focus entirely on the movement of the dancer’s bodies throughout the pieces. Susan Marshall and Company’s Cloudless is pure, raw, modern dance filled with small, yet satisfying, surprises for the modern dance enthusiast

Martha Ullman West of The Oregonian wrote, “Just when you think you have choreographer Susan Marshall pegged, she does something totally out of line with what she’s done before. And that means she’s truly a creative artist.”

Since 1982 Marshall and her Company have created and performed over thirty works to great critical acclaim. They were brought to Colgate by the Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts at Colgate University, the Company performed for one night only and offered an open question and answer session with the dancers and Marshall following the performance.

In addition to this single performance, the dancers and Marshall also held a master class for Colgate theater students and held guided improvisation workshops for dancers in the Colgate community as well. Overall, the Company’s three-day-stay here on the Hill was a great opportunity for students to learn from more experienced performers in their field.