Luna Negra's raw energy wows Wadsworth

On Friday, Sept. 29, Limelight and Accents presented its first event of the year, a performance by the famous Luna Negra Dance Theater.

Luna Negra was founded in 1999 by current Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, who has a broad background in performing arts ranging from the Martha Graham School of Dance to the Ballet Hispanico in New York City. His is a world-renowned company of dancers and choreographers whose style is a combination of ballet and modern dance with distinct Latin and Afro-Caribbean influences.

Wadsworth Auditorium was packed with students, faculty and community members. After a brief introduction by the current Limelight coordinator, junior Kelsey Ryan, and sophomore Accents coordinator, Ahmed Sheikh, the first number of the evening commenced. This performance, entitled "Tango Vitrola," used recordings of early 1920s music and featured the entire Luna Negra company.

After several minutes of total darkness, the stage was lit up, revealing a lone male dancer in black pants and a bowler hat with his back to the audience. Eventually, several female performers joined him, all wearing knee-length black dresses. Finally, more male performers came on stage, evening the numbers between the sexes.

Throughout the act, the men and women communicated with each other using dance that ranged in style from dramatic and powerful to dynamic and upbeat, providing an excellent showcase for the abilities of the Luna Negra dance team.

Another segment performed by the entire company, "Sugar in the Raw (Azucar Cruda)," imparted equal energy and enthusiasm on the audience. During this dance, men and women were dressed in earth tones; their movements suggested a celebration of the ancient connection between man and earth.

The curtain opened on a lone male dancer carrying a limp female dancer on his back and spinning in a circle. Other couples soon entered, and movements of the dance evolved to include rolling on the floor, gazing upward in adoration of the sky and sun, and even "bathing in earth" by miming the action of rubbing soil over clothes and skin. The music was upbeat and emphasized drums and other tribal sounds and instruments.

The final act was called "Quinceañera (Sweet Fifteen)," and again featured the entire company. The subject matter was the traditional Latino rite of passage for girls on their 15th birthdays. The female dancers wore traditional ballroom gowns and expressed, through dance, the emotions and experiences of this important ceremony.

Characters portrayed by the female dancers donned their dresses in anticipation of the night ahead, then "stumbled" in their first pair of high-heeled shoes and interacted with their escorts - some timidly, some aggressively. The attractive ethnic costumes of "Quinceañera," along with its lively music and creative choreography, successfully entertained the audience, resulting in resounding applause as the Luna Negra show came to an end.

As Limelight and Accents' first event of the year, the Luna Negra Dance Theater provided the Geneseo community with an enjoyable presentation of Latino and Afro-Caribbean arts and culture. Its success hopefully reflects on the quality of shows to come in the remainder of the 2007-2008 academic year.