We just finished a successful ACDA 2016 at University of Wyoming. As members of an Idaho school, we attend the Northwest Regional American College Dance Association conference. Like most dance festivals, it’s a few days where a bunch of dancers get together to take class from different teachers and to see new work.

This was a really successful conference for me in terms of classes. Since I declined to perform this year, I was able to focus just on taking what I wanted to take without worrying about tech times or missing parts of the show that I would have been in. I really just wanted to take class and enjoy myself this year, and there is something really nice about just being able to watch pieces of dance that you are not involved with.

The opening show of the conference wasn’t from a college, though, but Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Boy were they amazing. We didn’t have programs so I don’t know exactly what I saw, but I did enjoy it.

My love for contemporary ballet over classical is no secret, and Complexions offered a huge variety of pieces that really showcased how diverse contemporary ballet can be. The first piece was probably 15-20 minutes long, set to classical music with the ladies in leotards and pointe shoes and the men in high waisted shorts. The piece moved through a non narrative structure of various duets. I wasn’t as interested in this piece, but I could enjoy the technique and the artistry.

We experienced three shorter pieces next, first a trio of men against dim lights and light drumming noise. This one was more tense and more contemporary than contemporary ballet, though we saw a number of impressive turns. The next short piece was this duet between two men in green unitards. The four or five minute length was perfect, and from our seats near the stage we could sense the energy of the dancers. They channeled the musical tension and drama as they performed their high jumps and sweeping port de bras. The next short piece was performed to an emotionally sung “Amazing Grace,” and all I can say about this piece is that it was the exact right way to use extensions. The dancer unfurling her leg to the long held ending note of particular words brought tears to my eyes, no exaggeration. I really enjoyed the way the choreographer used the extension not as a trick or a show of athletic power but as an emotional tool; I really wish I could see this piece again to recall the specifics.

The last piece included a large cast being either crazy or Cunningham-esq to metal rock music. One of the male dancers would occasionally run and slide out to the middle of the stage and rock out with sharp and exaggerated hand/arm gestures as the rest of the cast moved in lines. He did some pretty crazy tricks – there was a multiple attitude turn down to the ground that made the audience gasp loudly.

Watching dance with a dance audience was great. People would gasp and shriek and allow their legitimate reactions to happen. The audience was on board the entire time.

This energy continued through the entire concert. Even for pieces that weren’t necessarily amazingly composed or performed, everyone at that conference knew what it was like to get onstage and be either nervous, in a piece they didn’t believe in, or upset with their performance. Every piece got a healthy dose of applause because everyone acknowledged the effort and guts it takes to get up on that stage and put work out there. It was an incredibly positive atmosphere. Even better were those moments when someone would do something risky and everyone would gasp or react.

Being around dancers is great in general. In David Dorfman’s class, he made sure that we made eye contact with each other as we danced, and I was surprised and grateful for the other dancers’ generosity.

There is something very moving about really seeing and being seen.