Insurgo's promo image for the performance

A dance performance, choreographically centered around chairs, was performed in a small theater in the heart of Las Vegas.

I know what you’re thinking.

Think again.

Jenna Wurtzberger debuted her first full-length modern showcase at Insurgo’s Bastard Theater on Sept. 23. Titled “The Crowded Chair,” the  hour-long show made use of the theater’s sparse interior and local-artsy vibe.

It also proved that, despite having an idea that could turn into a boring, cliched performance, 23-year-olds can do some pretty impressive things.

Wurtzberger is a UNLV graduate who holds a degree each in dance and psychology. Her college connection was evident in her casting choices: dancers Ashley Wilkerson, Katie Duffy, Alex Lum, Cheryl Snow, Sandra Sherer, Kim Weller, Michael Coleman and Zack Davis are  also students at the university.

Despite this influence, Wurtzberger sidestepped some of the most common college dance pot-holes. The show lasted for just under an hour and had no intermission, and, despite the small cast, necessary pauses for costume changes were mercifully brief.

More abstractly, “The Crowded Chair” was serious without being somber and thought-provoking without being overindulgent.

Instead, the show provided a fluid story with enough space for the audience to fill out themselves. The music was also a boon–light piano was underscored by brooding instrumentals and strong percussion added an almost hip-hop feel.

In the spirit of many progressive dance shows, the audience was mystified shortly after entering the house. Every member of the cast was sitting in a randomly-positioned chair onstage, looking bored or stone-faced and moving only occasionally.

The show began with the dancers still onstage. By the end of the piece, each performer had taken the focus briefly, dancing a quick solo before suspending their chair somewhere on the set and exiting. The absolute stillness from the other artists onstage added to the ambiance, and those moments of waiting to see which dancer would move next were some of the best in the show.

The concept of tension was redolent throughout.  This brought to mind the complex interplay  in relationships, either between a couple (as in “Finding the Contrast,” a desperate and pleading number), a  trio (“Keeping the Koy” and “(I)”), between one and many (“Why,” performed in silence) or in the solitude of only one (“Pain of Truth.”)

Unison wasn’t a strong point and (as per Insurgo’s usual), lighting wasn’t spectacular.

However, the choreography was distinctly modern but not contemporary, which seems to be an increasingly endangered characteristic  nowadays. The nuances of each piece varied to fit the dancers, which exemplifed the small cast and fortified the artistic maturity of the choreographer.

Beyond technique, the willingness to take risks shone through the entire show, making it a refreshing alternative to multimillion dollar productions elsewhere. This flying-leap tendency gave “The Crowded Chair” an edginess that made it well-suited to Insurgo and, for that matter, a young and ambitious choreographer.

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