Synapse shows deeper meaning of dance

On Saturday night, Synapse, the Santa Monica College contemporary dance ensemble, stormed the theater with a series of fiery, powerful and stunning dance numbers that showed the unique capabilities of the human body to tell stories.

After six weeks of preparation and six hours of rehearsal each week, the Synapse dancers showcased their new repertory by guest and faculty artists and student choreographers.

Once the house lights darkened, the audience was immersed in a world of movement and sound. The performances ranged from soft elegance to raucous, exhilarating romps framed by electronica, modern classical and even top 40 pop hits.

Among the standout moments were "Karadelik," by faculty choreographer Seda Aybay, featuring electronic music by Venetian Snares. For this piece, four dancers performed edgy choreography representing five characters who shared the repeating memory of a moment experienced together. It was a powerful expression of a group experiencing life and its trials.

"Wanna Just," by guest choreographer Andrew Pearson, was a joyous celebration of the different ways the body can move to a beat. To the pop song "Don't Stop The Music" by Jamie Cullum, the dancers would pose in combinations that were fun, modern and sensual.

Heartbreak was an emotion captured with sharp, searing clarity in student choreographer Kardale Holland's "The Ultimate Love," an aching number where a couple falls in love only for the relationship to then turn abusive.

The choreography here was a beautiful example of body movement telling a story. The moment when the woman, played by Anastasia Sinitsyna, leaves the man, played by Holland, who leaps after her in a flying motion, says it all. The music used here by Tom Tykwer, "The Cloud Atlas Sextext," taken from the film, created a powerful atmosphere.

Some of the most astounding work was featured in the number choreographed by SMC dance instructor Angela Jordan. "Applause," danced to the song of the same title by Lady Gaga, was a pure blast of exhilaration as dancers in black moved to a feverish rhythm with poses that were feral and sensual in front of a red background.

“Several students requested a Lady Gaga piece,” Jordan said backstage after the show. “I wanted to have hints of Lady Gaga, but not have it be an homage. I wanted it to be fun and entertaining.”

There was almost a cinematic power to this piece in the way the dancers created images through their movements; it was dangerous and alive. The audience was gasping and applauding every minute.

From modern pop to the richness of the past, the show also gave the audience a taste of the old world meeting the new. One performance by faculty choreographer, "Capriol Suite," reminiscent of the Renaissance through its music, dance, and costumes, featured a delicate hybrid of hip hop and Renaissance dance, accompanied by Peter Warlock's same-titled song.

The closing number was an emotional experience titled "Show Me The Way," designed by guest choreographer Jackelyn Lopez, whose recent loss of a family member influenced her choreography. The performance was a unique work of catharsis through the dancing and music, "Church Lady" by Dennis Ferrer. The dancers, dressed in the traditional funeral colors of white and black, evoked the power of transcendence through suffering.

For both co-directors, Jae Lee and Roberta Wolin-Tupas, dance is complex in its deeper meaning and reflection of the dancers' diverse backgrounds.

"Everybody is different," said Lee. "They all come from a different background, with a different technique. Finding and cultivating their individual talent is the challenge. It's been great directing our SMC dance majors."

Wolin-Tupas hoped the audience would see that dance not only serves as entertainment, but mirrors emotions and themes that connect people.

"I want them to see the range," she said. "I want them to see the depth in dance, [and] the many different topics and emotions that are expressed. Dance is beyond just entertainment. It is trying to reach from one person's heart to another. It's a powerful means of expression."

Like Lee and Wolin-Tupas, Jordan said that dance is a means to reveal emotions, identity and messages.

"Dance is a vehicle to express your feelings and emotions," Jordan said. "It is a way to gain identity as a person and as a group of people. It is a cultural marker, a platform and vehicle for communication."

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