Moments before taking the stage for their opening night performance, the dancers of Momentum Dance Collective breathed deep and brainstormed to solve the best kind of last-minute problem: not enough chairs for their sold out audience. The group's artistic director, Becky Kendall, scrambled to fit more people into the small performance space so that they could experience a journey in popular dance that spans nine decades of style.
The performance at Out North Contemporary Art House, titled "History. Pop Culture. And All That Jazz," kicks off in the Roaring Twenties. Performers embodied the sassy spirit of flapper girls in their fashion and their Charleston movements. Jessie Embley, who choreographed the opening number, says dancers have reveled in their characters with help for Dooley's costume shop. "It makes it so much fun when you get to dress the part fully," she said.
The concert moves quickly through period-specific pieces. Just two three-minute numbers and it's on to the theatrical 1930s style. Later, it's swing dance and rockabilly partner numbers. As narrator Kima Hamilton sets the scene with a calming voice made for radio, dancers dash to change outfits, hair and makeup to match each new era.
Makeup artist Maria Camacho turned an Out North closet into a makeshift studio. She styled many of the show's looks. She's had experience in this sort of thing; the pinup look is popular right now in private photo shoots she has worked on. "It's fun to relive where today's trends have come from." Modern makeup style can sometimes seem boring by comparison, she said.
While much of the show is a celebration in nostalgia of dated popular dances, Kendall says much of the movement on display is still relevant today. "Some movements that you see in the Charleston or the black-bottom? You can actually see those in hip-hop." Likewise, swing dancers of the '30s are very apparent in the rockabilly and partner dancers of the '50s, she said.
Momentum, joined by Illaskan Assassins b-boy crew, performs its Jazz concert again Friday and Saturday nights, November 9 and 10. Tickets might be hard to come by. Kendall says just a few remain for Saturday's show. If you miss it, you can catch Momentum in February at the Sydney Laurence Theater at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Then, the dance collective will be celebrating its fifth anniversary.