In a merging of visual art, dance, and music, the Van Dyke Dance Group created the ultimate artistic evening at the GreenHill Center of North Carolina Art. Local composer Frank Vulpi and Jan Van Dyke, director of the nonprofit Dance Project, Inc., joined in collaboration in the generous gallery space. Affectionately named the "Jan and Frank Show" the evening depicted the manipulation of design and space when relating to various rhythms.
The first selection, A Sense of Order, originally introduced in 1990, is driven immensely by a simplistic percussion beat that remains steady throughout. Three dancers – Virginia Duport, Laura McDuffee, and Kelly Swindell – were dressed in black with pops of vibrant colors along the pants pocket lining or the lapels of their shirts. Their movements were abstractly geometric, showcasing various opposing shapes and formations. There were very few moments in which the choreography allowed for unison of motion, but that is the brilliance of the piece.
Appropriately named, this dance is structured and mechanical in a way that is reminiscent of intricate parts of machinery. Each component or dancer is isolated in an individual sequence that may counter or at times mirror the others yet essentially builds to cohesion as a whole. One could draw parallels to a clock or a watch, with meticulously complex gears grinding together underneath to generate a seemingly simple continuous "tick-tock." As is the case with A Sense of Order, the dancers provided a glimpse of the inner workings, which seemed to inform the rhythmic timing.
The second and final number, Midnight on the Kitchen Counter, was beautifully staged with the sprawling space of the gallery in mind. The cast of dancers (Katrina Blose, Lindsey Bramham Howie, Jonathan McDonald, Nicole Ramsey, Christine Bowen Stevens, Michele Trumble, and Alexandra Joye Warren) swept the floor with crouched jazz runs, dressed uniformly in all black with matching knit hats. Unlike the introductory piece, this dance showcased shared collective choreography. The dancers explored height and dimension with moves that alternated from tight circle formations or floor work to massive leaps and arabesques. Vulpi's robust piano accompaniment, jazz-inspired, generated a climatic build-and-tension with the choreography. The dancers played against the momentum by slowing movements while the rhythm picked up or stretched out or cut musical beats short.
Both pieces of the evening addressed the marriage of timing and physicality that is evident of many facets of life. Van Dyke's choreography and Vulpi's compositions highlight the intricacies and vastness of pulse. The short performance, less than 30 minutes, lacked nothing in terms of profundity or artistic stimulation, especially when coupled with the art work of local artists showcased in the gallery walls.