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Davis-based Dance Troupe Teaches How to Deal with Life — and the Undead

Davis-based Dance Troupe Teaches How to Deal with Life -- and the Undead
Dancers with the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre perform "Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse & Other Life Events."

Pamela Trokanski is one of the most intelligent and creative makers of modern dance you’re likely to find. And a sharp sense of humor informs her work, too. Witness her latest program, Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse & Other Life Events, playing through this weekend.

The Davis-based Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre (PTDT) premiered the new work this past Sunday and will repeat it at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 24 and 25. It’s an excellent, cohesive program of modern dance that actually does offer tips for surviving a zombie attack and other life events. As one Sunday afternoon attendee said, “It was worth a year of good therapy. Two years of bad.”

Modern dance is a genre of contemporary dance that is more free-flowing and emotional than the more-structured form and formality of classical and even contemporary ballet (not that ballet can’t be emotional). There’s no en-pointe or toe shoes in modern dance. The dancers dance barefoot and see the dance space as having three levels: the floor (sitting or lying), the stage (standing), and the air above (reaching, stretching, sometimes jumping into it). Trokanski makes excellent use of all three in dances that show athleticism and artistry. She also uses the recorded spoken word well — some of it her own words, and some of it her dancers’, or collaborators, as she calls them.

Trokanski most often sets her pieces to popular music, and this program’s soundtrack includes works by Imagine Dragons, The Fray, Colbie Callait, Ed Sheeran and REM, among others.

This show marks Trokanski’s 30th anniversary season of multi-generational performances. The resident Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre troupe, as well as the PTDT Apprentice Company of young dancers and The Third Stage of older performers are included. They integrate well and appear onstage together throughout most of the program.

The work explores the ways we cope with life, individually and collectively, as well as our preoccupation with an undead apocalypse and other unlikely events to the exclusion of more likely circumstances. The emotions range from chaos and confusion to steely self-reliance.

Highlights of the program include three solo dances performed by members of the resident company. Nicole Bell performs an athletic dance to Dido’s “Life for Rent”; Sara Delorena has an excellent turn in “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera; Trokanski displays discipline and artistic expression dancing to Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph.”

The PTDT is located at 2720 Del Rio Place, Davis. Tickets to the Friday and Saturday performances are $18 general and $12 for children, students and seniors. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com or at the door, beginning 30 minutes before show time.

Dancers with the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre perform in "Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse & Other Life Events."
Dancers with the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre perform in “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse & Other Life Events.”

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About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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