Choreography a staple of the Curran Company

Rarely does a choreographer possess the ability to create a serious, dramatic piece as effectively as a comical spoof, yet Sean Curran is one of those exceptional artists.

Courtesy of University Events Office

His premiere at the UCSD Mandeville Auditorium presented a varied bill of four works ranging in theme and content from an almost ceremonial, Eastern-inspired piece to an eclectic hodgepodge of classical ballet to modern and traditional Irish step dancing, clearly commenting on Curran’s diverse background. The common denominator between all four works is Curran’s intensity of emotion and wit, echoed by each of his dancers.

The audience was immediately engaged by the rhythmic drumming audible prior to the opening of Curran’s first offering. It’s first glimpse of the company was a visually stunning assemblage of vibrantly hued costumes contrasted against stark black-and-white striped flooring.

The effect of this image was intensified by the use of harsh white lighting that gave a clean, simplified feeling to the piece titled “”Abstract Concrete.”” This sense of pure, clean lines is continued through Curran’s choreography.

Curran uses a linear theme throughout to create sudden, ordered patterns at the most chaotic moments of dancing. The dancers alternate partners frequently, creating a sense of constant flux, altering relationships and playful interactions. The chaotic moments of the piece are resolved by the primary couple’s repetition of the same lyrical pas de deux at the beginning and end of the piece. This repetition also provides a cyclical feeling to the dance.

Curran presented a more recent work next that hinted at themes of sexuality and coming to terms with one’s personal idiosyncrasies. “”Metal Garden”” is divided by a beautiful interlude with three couples moving methodically through each other’s arms. Curran repeatedly made odd entrances and exits during this section carrying gardening supplies. Such pointed hints at his meaning were Curran’s way of challenging his audience to question their own interpretation of the piece.

The most technically impressive and stylistically varied of the four works was Curran’s acclaimed “”Symbolic Logic,”” a ritualistic piece that reveals the wide range of Curran’s choreographic influences, from classical Indian dance to martial arts. Each dancer stood alone at the beginning of the piece repeating controlled, ornamented arm movements — seemingly lost in a self-reflective, spiritual experience.

Curran shows a great sensitivity for creating a unified theme in “”Logic”” by using circular imagery on the floor and costumes, alluding to ideas of cycles of life and death.

Dancer Heather Waldon-Arnold, who stood out throughout the entire performance, was particularly exquisite in this piece. Her superior ballet technique adds a lyricism and ease to her movements that the other dancers lack.

Curran’s choice of music in the vocals of Sheila Chandra adds to the religious tone of the piece, often evoking images of a place of spiritual worship.

For his final piece, Curran references his earliest training in Irish step dancing while depicting the drastic differences in technique from classical ballet. The result is a hilarious marriage of what Curran calls “”Traditional Methods”” and “”Postmodern Techniques,”” in his work “”Folk Dance for the Future.””

Curran pokes fun at the state of Irish step dancing today, mocking the self-titled “”Lord of the Dance,”” Michael Flatley. Heather Waldon-Arnold improvised a comical solo of the same nature, followed later by a contrasting ballet section, performed with the same virtuosity she demonstrated throughout the show.

As all the dancers joined together on stage for their finale, each offered their untrained imitation of step dancing to the delight of the audience. To see “”Folk Dances”” is to gain a better understanding not only of where Curran began, but of how successfully he has used all of his training to create a unique style all his own through humor and a sincere love of dance of all kinds.

Sean Curran’s work may run the gamut of choreographic styles, but regardless of the type of dance he uses as his medium, his work consistently possesses a confidence that comes from never taking himself too seriously.