Staibdance’s “Fence” performs at the Nancy Smith Fisher Dance Theater

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On Thursday, September 22, Staibdance performed their production of “Fence” at the Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theater on the FSU campus. According to their description, “Fence is a journey into a messy world of power struggles and rejected histories and an examination of how ‘otherness’ can steal our power or become its source.” With an incredibly talented group of dancers – including a few guest dancers from the FSU School of Dance – an intriguing composition created by Ben Coleman and choreography by George Staib, “Fence” is an utterly captivating and thought-provoking production that brings art abstract live.

Based in Atlanta, Staibdance is a contemporary dance company that seeks to show its audience the human experience. According to their website”[Staibdance] performances and classes ask participants to lose themselves and find themselves through evocative imagery both on stage and in the studio classroom. We encounter head-on the joys, challenges, sights and beauty that contribute to our dynamic and universal experience – what makes us human.

“Fence” originally started performances in 2019 but was put on hold due to the pandemic. The production features a group of dancers representing different emotions and different types of relationships.

The show begins with a projected visual art scene depicting points of light coming together and diverging. The music starts and the dancers take the stage. The performers begin by simply walking across the stage, then break into separate groups, some solo, but many move in a way that shows the complexity of couples and relationships. The choreography as well as the musical composition offer the audience an extremely dynamic piece that offers many aspects that make you want to be able to look everywhere at once to grasp all the specific details. The show continues, highlighting certain dancers and duos who each have their own story. “Staibdance” also uses silence impeccably, creating movement out of the tension that the music and previous dance leave behind – as well as the dramatic use of spoken words in the performance.

At one point, the whole group dances to the strategic patterns that a performer makes with certain words and noises. The words initially sound random and are staggered to create a vocal pattern that the dancers also match their movement. This broken spoken word continues throughout the show, but turns into full speech during a scene with two dancers talking to each other alluding to earlier vocal patterns. Through the combination of speech, movement and the work of the intimate partner, the dancers create a raw and tempting sensation of the complexities that exist in the various dimensions of human interaction.

While the show emphasizes intimacy and connection, a significant portion of the performance is devoted to depicting the distance people keep from each other. The dancers, except one, find themselves in pairs locked in an “almost” embrace, a small but perceptible space which separates them. On the other hand, the solo performer looks tragically at the couples around him. Highlighted by aesthetically pleasing mood lighting, this scene was a truly impactful illustration of the internal argument surrounding vulnerability. The lighting throughout the piece was an incredible contributor to the mood of the show and the specific, evocative moments that George Staib and the dancers were able to create.

The technical performance of each dancer on stage was not only spectacular, but a testament to the craftsmanship and talent they possess. The choreography was simply stunning and took on an abstraction that elicits interpretation with intimate and real couple working moments. Fueled by its breathtaking musical score and unique visual elements created by its lighting and mood, Staibdance’s “Fence” is a powerful work of art with raw emotion that absolutely touched the hearts and minds of its audience. public here at Florida State.

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