Relationships: a common thread at UNC Charlotte’s Faculty Dance Concert

Arts / Article

Scene from “Like a Turtle without a Shell, or Crows’ Feet” by Gretchen Alterowitz. Courtesy of UNC Charlotte Department of Dance

The intricacies of relationships, whether good or bad, loving or abusive, joyful or sad, were a prominent theme at the UNC Charlotte’s Faculty Dance Concert this past weekend. Each of the four dances explored this theme, with the first dance, “In the Periphery” by Gretchen Alterowitz, setting the tone by placing relationships central to her choreography.

“In the Periphery” featured two dancers, Caroline Shomaker and Melissa Word, locked in a relationship, pushing and pulling, connecting and disengaging with each other. Alterowitz captured the ups and downs of friendship or perhaps sisterhood as two women give and take to form a bond.

The second piece choreographed by E.E. Balcos, “Deep Water,” examined the dark side of a relationship between lovers that leads to murder. “Deep Water” was inspired by the North Carolina murder ballad “Omie Wise,” which tells the story of the drowning of Naomi Wise by Jonathan Lewis. Balcos’ addition to this trope is not a strict interpretation of the ballad; instead he adds his own twist, portraying Lewis as a serial killer that murdered three women, not just Naomi Wise. The beginning of “Deep Water” is a brilliant portrayal of drowning as the three women intermittently slide across the floor in slow rhythmic motion, becoming more and more agitated until they rise up.

“Like a turtle without a shell, or crow’s feet” was the second piece by Alterowitz. According to the concert program, it “ruminates on the sensations of the body, as it deteriorates, reinvigorates and reimagines its own possibilities.” This work was difficult to interpret (at least for this audience member); it seemed disjointed — fragmented by periods of silence and stillness to the point of being unsettling. But perhaps this was the point, because just as the dancer’s quietness would become too much and the audience was shifting in their seats, something happened. In the end, “Like a turtle” conveys the challenges and joys people undergo with their bodies as they age. The relationship with ourselves — with our own bodies — seemed to be most prominently explored.

Dancer and choreographer E.E. Balcos. Courtesy of UNC Charlotte Department of Dance

The final piece, “Trinity” by E.E. Balcos, was a lighter more exuberant dance in comparison to “Like a turtle.”  It offered a happy ending if you will, featuring three dancers, Audrey Baran, Melissa Jesse and Katie Matter, dancing in phases of movement that increased in complexity to entwine them together.  “Trinity” portrayed the movement of three distinct bodies in their relationship to each other.

Overall, the Fall Faculty Dance Concert showcased the extraordinary talents of UNC Charlotte’s Dance Department, leaning heavily in the direction of modern dance.

This year’s annual concert, titled “Love, Death, and Naked Turtles,” was held on September 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Anne R. Belk Theater of Robinson Hall. Tickets for future performances are available online at or by calling 704-687-1849.