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The Fall Appalachian Dance Ensemble, or FADE, is an experimental contemporary set of performances choreographed by the faculty and students of Appalachian State University's Department of Theatre and Dance. The end-of-semester showcase features performances increasing in skill level as the show progresses. Through a building intensity, each performance Thursday night exhibited the tug-of-war theme of struggling for a breath of tranquility.
The majority of the music selection for FADE follows a tribal-techno theme. The score, in conjunction with the experimental lighting, creates a hallucinogenic atmosphere. Each of the dances was captivating and despondent. The movements were large, and the dancers used the full size of the stage, making the show easy to view even for someone in the back row.
The thematic shifts from cool colors to vibrant ones aided the changing tempo of the choreography. During one performance, the lighting would transition between a fully-lit stage and partially-lit directional light, which was quite dramatic. Many dance performances I have seen have been flatly lit in a wash, which made FADE feel more experiential by incorporating dynamic lighting choices. The lighting seemed to breathe along with the dancers in what was the best display of lights I have seen at the Valborg Theatre this season.
Breath was a common theme in this show, with each dancer's breath displaying a sensation of struggling for peace. A few of the most captivating dances were the ones performed without instrumentation, only using the sound of the dancer's breath to mark the tempo. Breath was also used to mark transitions from high intensity to low intensity in the music and with the lighting.
I found myself most engaged with the performances after intermission, specifically, the formation changes in the second half of the show were particularly dazzling. The asymmetrical movement seemed sporadic until the formations would align with everyone beautifully dancing in unison. The shifting light helped exaggerate the transitions of the dancers to make them more climatic.
The choreography was cohesive overall and allowed each dancer to solo for a period of time. It was a nice touch for the dancers to get their own moment in the spotlight, considering that this show serves as an end-of-semester culmination of effort.
There were two atypical video dance performances that were choreographed, filmed, and edited during the first pandemic lockdown. I applaud the effort to create a performance during a time when the availability to perform was limited by circumstance, however, the videos felt more to me like a multimedia video production rather than a clear dance performance. Most of the dancing in the videos was abstract and expressive and the editing was distracting, specifically when the clips would overlay on top of each other and reverse.
In recent shows at the Valborg, the performers did not wear masks on stage during the performance. For FADE, all of the performers were masked. I missed seeing the facial expressions of the dancers, able to only go off of their eyes. It is unfortunate that as a trade for heightened safety, which I appreciate, we also lose seeing the full gravity of emotion displayed by the dancers.
The playbill advertised another dance showcase coming in the spring, and I look forward to attending that performance as well. Because the world of dance is filled with people of all walks of life, one thing I hope to be expanded upon in the spring showcase is a more diverse representation of genders and races amongst the dancers. Because FADE told such compelling stories through movement, I would welcome seeing the same artistry applied to an even greater representation of stories on stage.
With the holidays approaching, everyone is searching for a breath of peace during the changing seasons. Fade is a wonderful way to bring an end to the fall season. The evening was a beautiful display of light and movement, marking the transition from warm hues to cool blues. I found myself hypnotized by the showcase in its entirety and desired to see more.
FADE continues through Sunday, November 21. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.