By Rhea Riley
On the horizon of a new decade, Water Street Dance Company centers itself between the past, present, and future by reminiscing on the old, while simultaneously setting its sights on a new era with its latest production, Centered. Nearly a year after SueMo Dance company’s performance of Symbiosis, artistic director and cofounder Morgan “Mo” Williams returned to the Uihlein stage at the Marcus Performing Arts Center with a new company of his own and with another great production. Equipped with a stellar and much larger cast than before, Centered revisited some of the company’s best work both old and new while setting the tone for a fruitful new year for the rebranded contemporary company.
The evening began with a pre-show, showcasing the lengthy piece “Abyss” from Water Street Dance Company’s youth members. A gritty and dark performance, that could leave one thinking, “is this what it would look like if the children from The Hunger Games danced?” It was a well-earned “humble flex” from Williams to what the next generation can accomplish under his tutelage and an excellent precursor to the main event.
The evening-length production consisted of five pieces. The most captivating of which were the full ensemble cast performances of, “Siren” (2020 company premiere), “Rebirth of Serenity” (2018) and a reworked “Imagery Portrayed” (2019).
The opener, “Siren” was choreographed by Joffrey Ballet dancer and Chicago native Luis Vazquez in 2017. Siren was a beautiful contrast of stillness against chaos and disarray. Moments of structure set against constant movement left one fighting to see every gorgeous detail, an impossible task to accomplish. It was a great beginning to the show.
“Rebirth of Serenity” took the audience on a different ride. Choreographed by Williams, this number was divided into two parts, each of which had something for everyone. The first part felt familiar to the unaccustomed dance viewer and nostalgic to the traditional modern dance lovers. Set to Nina Simone’s, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” this staccato and snazzy number incorporated jazz hands along with sprinkles of Graham and Fosse throughout, and left you with a melancholy desire for the dance days of old. This then shifted to part two, the rebirth, shaking off tradition and embracing what the world of modern dance is now. Garbed in kilts, dancers thrashed and convulsed in the dark and eerie stage while also executing exquisite ballet technique, coupled with stamina and power.
The final act of the night, “Imagery Portrayed” was created by Williams with creative direction by Heather Mrotek and projection design by Simean Carpenter. The piece premiered in last year’s Symbiosis. It showcased excellent lighting displays, projection animation, live video and even fancy mirror effects, creating a sensory digital splendor. A few new additions to this year’s, “Imagery Portrayed” gave a more cohesive feeling this time around, allowing it to reach a new potential.
Of course none of these pieces would have been as outstanding without the extraordinary cast. Company members (Nanya El Madyun Wilson, Joe Musiel, Allison Slamann, Jasper Sanchez, Alex Seager, Sara Silvis, Anna Stachnik, and Ashley Tomaszewski) shined on the stage, along with guest dancers Gina Laurenzi, Marcus Hardy, and siblings Anna and Tyler Straszewski who were great additions, creating a superb night of dancing.
Centered was unfortunately only a single-night performance, but you can catch the company performing on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Booking Dance Festival and again on March 7 at the RAD Festival. For more information on Water Street Dance Company visit: https://waterstreetdancemke.com/