Coming Home: ADF Alumni Return
Saturday, Jun. 23 & Sunday, Jun. 24
Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham

Homecomings can be bittersweet affairs, and ADF’s alumni showcase was a particularly dispiriting one.

It’s hard to imagine that more than a hundred other submitted dance works were less accomplished than the mostly unfortunate quintet selected by a blue-chip panel of professionals: ADF alumni themselves, including Elaine Bayless, Nicholas Leichter, and Larry Keigwin. Even harder to swallow: Apparently, no work by female alumnae met the problematic curatorial standards here.

Two of the five works we saw were largely exercises in form without substance, technique without context or content. A third, Raja Feather Kelly’s smirking but profoundly lazy satire TEDx On Love, never mustered enough imagination or courage to actually invalidate any of its low-hanging targets, including Carly Rae Jepsen, Philip Glass, emotional authenticity, and narrative dance.

Beginner choreographers frequently attempt to ennoble otherwise pedestrian movements with bombastic music. We witnessed the inverse in the first half of Burr Johnson’s solo, Untitled, when his precise, long-limbed movements lost much of their potential gravitas, handcuffed to the K-pop bubblegum of Girls’ Generation.

Alumnus Alex Springer and partner Xan Burley’s lengthy duet, You being Me being You and the Eye, is reportedly the result of extensive movement research in the field, but it seemed like a random splicing of observed gestures that communicated little besides effort.

Given the legato dynamics of spoken-word piece I Gotta, we questioned Julio Medina’s ability to execute its hip-hop moves. When Nicole Wolcott spoke with moving frankness about mid-career performance strategies for dancers in the other ADF program of the evening, Places Please!, this work came to mind.

Only Chafin Seymour’s concert closer, Gaze, eluded these pitfalls. It was an inventive work interrogating the gay version of the male gaze. Polymorphous moves reflected the polymorphous relationships among a trio of young men, set to a soundtrack of songs about toxic masculinity, unapologetic machismo, infantilism, and both self- and other-loathing after a meaningless hookup.

Correction: Due to an editing error, this post originally stated that the program included no work by women. In fact, a woman co-created one of the works, though she is not an ADF alumna.