Now in its third year, it's changed names from The Awards Show to The Sugar Show, is co-produced by SB Dance and Sugar Space and has expanded from one evening to two preliminaries and a finale. That's a lot of sweetness. After being accepted, each artist has about three months to complete their piece, which, difficult as it may be, helps to craft more clearly focused works. Friday's four pieces spanned the spectrum of artistry and evocation.
Upon entering, each audience member was given a pamphlet that included feedback cards for each piece—later to be given to each choreographer—and an educational card to help with assessment criteria. Listed were questions to ponder as well as details of using POEM—Potential, originality, execution, merit—criteria when adjudicating the works.
Craig Berman started the show with "Racked." With a resume including performing with Momix and Cirque du Soleil, his reputation proceeded him. Berman broke gravity solo on a red bike rack after realizing that his bike was stolen. Attired in bike tights, Berman oscillated too quickly between tragic woe and glee to have a successful arch to conclusion. Berman's shear athleticism was surely impressive, but, for me, detracted from the whole as a dance piece. Overall, it has great potential, especially if he experimented with making it a pas de trois. Despite my skepticism, Berman was a crowd favorite and moved on to the finals.
Water has no limit in its inspiration to artists. Chantal Downing and Arwen Rogers teamed up to choreograph "Stream Life," the most accessible dance of the evening and back-dropped by a film. Rogers danced solo and made good use of space and repetition, which helps untrained spectators assimilate and comprehend a dance's language. In flow-y garb, Rogers would spin diagonally and cast a shadow on the screen that was depicting spinning rocks or water running down a woman's back. Nearly a visual overload, the piece was a success and has potential to expand into a much bigger body of work. However, they will not be moving on.
The most challenging piece of the evening (and for Utahns at large) was Samuel Hanson and Katie Meehan's "kathryn and katherine." Meehan danced alongside Katherine Adler—schoolmate in the U's Modern Dance program. The opening (Meehan later said was inspired by Fleetwood Mac LP covers) consisted of backward bows with candles was just annoying enough to make the climax interesting. As the two performed a simple task sequence of darting across the stage to chug Budweisers (yes, beers in a dance performance), they would also incorporate beautiful movements, ultimately leading into arm windmills. The piece was just sheer entertainment, yet had an aesthetic that begs to ask questions of the viewers for weeks to come. They took the greatest risk of the evening and disappointingly weren't rewarded for it.
The former was like an awkward poem with a wonderful lingering quality, while "BLANK," choreographed by I-Fen Lin, was like a one night stand. Perhaps the tightest and most technical piece, done solo in a simple white outfit without props, left nothing more to say. The panelist Jason Larson couldn't say much either. And, a piece that doesn't beg to be spoken of, for me, doesn't warrant an audience award. However, again, others felt differently, and Lin will move on to the finals.
After the performances, the panelists shed their thoughts, as did the audience, in addition to asking questions. This feedback process is an oasis for artists in a place that is often dry of constructive criticism. For the audience, it also facilitates better understanding of dance, its process and the choreographer's creative insights.
Go see tonight's performance (and the finals on December 4). You won't be disappointed.
The Sugar Show: Preliminaries @ Sugar Space, 616 Wilmington Ave. (2190 South), 888-300-7898, Nov. 19-20, 8 p.m., $10-$12 day of show only; Finals @ Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. Broadway, 801-355-2787, Dec. 4, 8 p.m., $12. ArtTix.org, TheSugarSpace.com