Friday, June 22, 2012

Uptown, downtown...another town?

Choreographer Andrea Miller and her relatively new company, Gallim Dance, presented their first solo evening presentation at the Joyce Theater last weekend as a part of the Gotham Dance Festival. This work, Sit, Kneel, Stand, as well as the language used in Miller’s past works, is undeniably unique in the New York dance scene. Fitting neither the classicism nor shapeliness of the so-called uptown dance scene, nor the intellectually sculpted, physically unformed downtown dance scene, Gallim presents a movement vocabulary that is intensely physical, jam packed with awkward gesture and uses an impressive juxtaposition of staccato jar and unexpected fluidity. Miller’s voice, as well as those of the talented cast of dancers she has chosen to work with, is refreshing and fearless.

Sit, Kneel, Stand, based on “The Myth of Sisyphus,” tooled with manipulation; dancers manipulated their own bodies, the bodies of others, the chairs that occupied the space, the emotions of one another and the emotions of the audience. As the house opened, dancer Troy Ogilvie was in the space improvising an acutely specific and deeply focused solo. Ogilvie moved her own body parts incrementally and, attempting to do the impossible, used them to try moving the lip of the stage. She worked tirelessly at her task while maintaining an invisible wall between herself and the front row of the audience that was inches away. As the curtain rose, she clambered on the stage and met her fellow company members. Two male dancers leaned into one another in an awkward embrace and dancer Francesca Romo loudly declared “This is how we’re going to start the show!” Already stepping away from definitions that the dance scene has tattooed on its players, Miller had introduced spoken word, physicality with resonance of deeply engrained traditional technique and gesture in her warm and comedic opening.

Dancer Jonathan Royse Windham shifted chairs under the feet and hands of the tiny, felinesque Arika Yamada as though they were floating islands catching her weight. Constantly in steady slow motion, Yamada, entirely unaware of the chairs or other human son stage, stretched and twisted as she stepped blindly into the open space always just saved from crashing down to the earth as Windham managed to position a chair in her path. Windham’s body and movements were quirky and disconnected and, at times, confusing to watch (at one point, like a contortionist, he tossed his left arm behind his head where it stayed directly parallel to his collar bone and motioned with his fingers) in relation to the trancelike softness of Yamada. Yamada maintained this detached persona throughout, oblivious of the chaotic happenings that surrounded her; drifting in and out of the space, a solid, pleasant form to watch and feel attached to amid the eccentric, high-speed motion of the others.

In another section, veteran Gallim dancer (if you can be a veteran in a company that is only 5 years old), Francesca Romo, manipulated the body of Dance Walczak piece by piece as she attempted to lead him towards Yamada; try as she may Romo never acheived her goal. Romo’s hectic, jerky movements were accompanied by vocalization of her frustrations in her girly, heavily accented voice. Her comedic timing was spot on and came to an end with her experiencing a mini-meltdown.

At one point Walczak and Yamada, literally, fell into one another. They merged together like metal alloys creating soft architectural shapes and morphing throughout the space, Walczak adapting to Yamada’s molasses-like speed. The two moved in unison as classical music surged. While the dancers never made eye contact with one another nor had any sort of presentational awareness of the audience, their bodies spoke loudly of the loneliness that can be felt when we are not actually alone.

Towards the end of the workthe dancers took the stage as a company. They flew through the space with arching leaps making angular patterns. It was a joy to witness this very physical company moving in full. They crissed and crossed, spun and dropped; there were pairings and trios. In the waves of physicality the company maintained a movement quality that was somehow simultaneously jerky yet fluid, and always unpredictable. Set choreography broke away to a playful and vigorous game of tag wherein the dancers chased one another as they shouted and bolted like children at a playground.

Thank you Andrea Miller and thank you Gallim dance for bringing together the beauty of both New York dance “camps.” Gallim is a force and I, for one, look forward to seeing how they continue shape the architecture of the dance scene in New York and abroad.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 115

Hello Loves....

The seasons have turned and, while I have been silent for some time, transformation and growth are presenting themselves with each flip of the calendar page. During the past few months I have been forced to clean out some of the deeper corners of my soul (terrifying) and face myself. All things of unnecessary weight have been tossed off to the side and pursuits of fresh curiosity and clarity have been picked up. The result...a much more balanced, productive and inspired me!

During my online silence there has been nothing but noise in my life. I am mid-way through an intense yoga teacher's amazing. More on this when I figure out how to articulately express. My cohorts, Stephanie Booth and Shannon Narasimhan, and I officially launched the website for our dance company, check it out: The Umbrella Co. We have an excellent group of artists on board and are beginning to make a name for ourselves in the city. You can come see The Umbrella Co. perform live on 11/5 at the Amalgamate Artists Series in Harlem. You can also come see me perform with Heather N. Seagraves and dancers next Saturday, 10/29, as we take the stage as guest artists at the Amalgamate Dance Company season performance.
Woot! Busy days my friends, busy days.

Final notes for the day: Colin Dunne, the Irish Step dancing phenomenon, is just that...a phenomenon. I had the privilege of seeing him perform his solo show, "Out of Time," at the Baryshnikov Arts Center last Thursday. His ability to pay homage to an incredibly traditional dance form while bringing it into a contemporary light blew me also, strangely, helped me to blow away my current and unsatisfying relationship. Done. This Thursday I will be going to see Wayne Magregor and his company, Random Dance, perform at Montclair University. I've been looking forward to this show for months. Can. Not. Wait.

Ok my loves... I promise to report back much sooner this time! Please come check out my shows and let me know what's on your mind.

Much love,

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 73: Kate Weare Company

Clicking through an online performance calendar on Wednesday morning, I came across the name of a company that was vaguely familiar, Kate Weare Company. Not sure of how I knew of them, I checked out their website and realized one of the company members, a petite, self-assured woman with fiery red hair named Leslie Kraus, and I used to work together. Though, only acquaintances, I had always been impressed by how solidly Ms. Kraus presented herself and by the warmth and openness that she exuded (I now know that she’s one hell of a dancer as well). This impression, along with a need for inspiration and an un-booked Thursday evening, prompted me to secure a ticket to the show.
The show, at the Joyce Theater, was part of the Gotham Dance Festival (a festival that gives upward moving companies the opportunity to share a billing and save some money, while presenting in a big name theater). It is hard for 4 dancers to fill a stage for over an hour and, honestly, I’m not sure that this was accomplished (though the striking set design, by Kurt Perschke, and solid lighting, by Brian Jones, definitely helped).  Ms. Weare presented two pieces, Lean-to and Garden, both were well sculpted musically and physically strong. The company, made up of two bold, male dancers and two forceful, yet feminine, female dancers, were entirely believable and convinced me that this is a company to take seriously.
I like Kate Weare. I think her work is fresh and exciting… but she needs more dancers.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 64: Congratulations Curacao!

First order of business: Congratulations to all of the beautiful and talented dancers in Curacao! I received word that the film of the flash mob premiered yesterday and that it was a great success. For those of you unfamiliar with what I speak of, there is a group of dancers on the island of Curacao who worked together this winter to create something very special. A combination of classically trained dancers, b-boys and traditional dancers combined their experience and talent to produce a piece that moved the island both emotionally and physically…they took to the streets and brought their exultant movement to the people. I had the honor of working with these dancers and want to applaud their commitment to the project and the openness with which they shared their hearts and bodies. Thank you for the experience and I hope to see you all next winter!
Back in NYC, I spent the day cycling, dancing and planning for the future. It seems that my partners in crime and I have finally settled on a name for our dance company: The Umbrella Co. What do you think? Next performance is on 6/19 at the Shore Institute of Contemporary Arts in Long Branch, NJ. Come check it out! We’ll have a website up soon and more performances are on the horizon.
Despite my bursitis ridden hips, I am feeling alive and energetic. The sun baked concrete is sending heat through my feet and I can’t imagine sitting still during these brilliant summer days.  Take off your shoes and have a dance…isn’t that what we all live for?
Love and light,

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 63: June!

It is June. Whoa.
May was a month full of successes and defeats. I pushed myself forward and, in some senses, it worked… a new piece completed and performed (with shockingly positive responses all around), a children’s recital staged and over (thank God), new contacts made, a performance booked. Defeats…well I didn’t land any of the auditions that I went on and I am out of money. Class is on hold. Entertainment is on hold. Life is on hold. I hate money-but I love summer. C'est la vie.
In my bag this month: Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet. Wish me luck. This 600 page monster, by former dancer Jennifer Homans, weighs about 5lbs. and has only about 10 pictures. Better be riveting! I’ll let you know how it goes…
Happy June!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 46: En Face, En Masse

En face and en masse. I need more of it with my 5 year old, miniature ballerinas and less of it with the dynamic cast of movers that make up the Danza Contemporenea de Cuba.
Today I had a taste of the absolute insanity that a child’s first dance recital is. From the inside, as an eager and hyper-active 3 year old it was awesome…in fact it was so freaking awesome that I decided that I would make my life’s goal to perform in ‘recitals’ for a living. As a 20-something who pays the bills by spreading my love of dance to the particularly privileged (and might I say unbelievably cool, cooler then I could ever be) aspiring dancers in Soho and Tribeca, with no children of my own, recitals are not so entirely awesome. If fact, I finally, actually understand what people are talking about when they say that they can feel the blood pressure rising. Quite looking forward to the brilliance that will be my Sunday in the theater with all 60 kids, their parents, yards of pastel lycra and pounds of rhinestones…if only they could all look the same way and move at the same time. En face, en masse dammit!
Danza Contemporenea de Cuba’s first visit stateside was highly anticipated and highly attended. The company presented two programs with a total of 5 dramatically varied works by an equal amount of choreographers. Program A featured the high energy, dance hall music driven work of company member George Cespedes, Mambo 3XXXI. The upbeat, playful and carefree nature of the piece stood in sharp contrast to the Mats Ek piece Casi-Casa that rounded out the program. While Ek is monster in the international dance scene, the piece, set on the athletic power dancers of DCdC, did not come across well. Perhaps the placenta-esque vacuum scene ruined it for me, but the abstract representation of domestic drudgery and the faulty semi-narrative certainly fell short of the type of work that I had been waiting to see. Program B was a thrilling journey. As the program progressed, my respect for the versatility of the performers continued to expand. Sulkary featured 6 of the company members, 3 women with contained afros and slithery vertabraeic columns and 3 VERY masculine men. The traditional nature of the piece and the convincing performance made it a true pleasure to behold. Pedro Ruiz, who is a choreographer working in our own city as a professor at Marymount, choreographed the approachable Horizonte. Wonderful partnering and silky movement that is not afraid to be beautiful were the highlights…the terrible pastel costumes and awful elevator music were the downfalls. How I’d love to see Ruiz’s work with a grittier push! Program B was rounded out by Demo-N/Crazy choreographed by Rafael Bonachela. What an excellent way to end the journey. Simple, effective costuming and lighting coinciding perfectly with what seemed to be the natural movement style of the dancers made Demo-N/Crazy something special. Bonachela is one that I will be watching.
Danza Contemporanea de Cuba is an inspiring company. The dancers all possess impressive versatility of movement range and a true essence of honesty within their performance. So the Ek wasn’t successful…oh well. So they dance en face, en masse WAY too much…oh well. I’m ecstatic that this company has finally made its over-due way onto the radar of the American dance audiences. As time presses on, I look forward to seeing what else the Cuban dancers have to bring to us.
I leave you this evening with a quote from one of my small dancers. “Ms. Jessica, today when I was dancing I felt the music in my soul.” That will keep me going for a few more weeks! May you feel the music in your soul too. Sweet dreams….

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 25

OOooooohh…it’s finally, really spring here in the city. The tree outside of my apartment building is in full, glorious bloom and the winter jackets have officially been retired. For the first time in months New Yorkers are showing their skin to the sun and ordering their coffee iced. We are shedding the layers of mental weight that we’ve been carrying around since the final leaves dropped from the branches last year and we are walking lighter.
This mental stripping has given me a sense of renewal. A spring re-birth, if you will. I feel energized and ready. 2 auditions this week (which will, um, be the first that I have attended in over a year). Here we go…

Along with the new season come some events of interest in the NY dance scene.  Here are a couple that I will be checking out:
Danze de Contemporanea de Cuba
This company will be performing at the Joyce as part of the citywide !Si Cuba! Festival, a festival celebrating the arts and culture of Cuba. Truthfully, I have never seen this company perform, nor have I heard much buzz surrounding their work, my interest actually lies in the program that they will be presenting.  The company will be performing a work by the spectacular Swedish choreographer Mats Ek. I have spent MANY hours watching and re-watching Ek’s work on the net (one favorite being this spectacular work entitled “Wet Woman”  performed by the indomitable Sylvie Guillem). The creations of Ek are emotionally charged without teetering into sappiness, musical while maintaining organic suppleness, and wonderfully, artfully constructed. The Danza de Contemporanea de Cuba engagement will be my first opportunity to witness Ek’s work first hand. I AM EXCITED.
Danza de Contemporanea de Cuba will be performing at the Joyce Theater from 5/10-5/22.
Armitage Gone!
The infamous “punk ballerina,” as she was deemed during her performance career, Karole Armitage, will present her company, Armitage Gone!, for a 2 week program (also at the Joyce). Actually, I can only assume that you must already know about this show, as it seems to be that they have spent an enormous amount of money on promotions. Jesus! I mean, there are posters on every corner, blurbs pop up as I browse the web (Google has somehow linked me to them and their advertisements litter my screen constantly).  I have seen them before, in ’09, and, honestly, was not terribly impressed. You see, the women (at least from what I remember) TOWERED over the men. It’s possible that I’m prejudiced due to my height (5’10”) but I like a man to be at least of equal height to the ladies on stage. Height issues aside, I’m eager to see what they are presenting this year since the n u m e r o u s advertisements speak about the use of Gaga technique. I’m semi-obsessed with this technique and am curious to see it used in the context of Armitage’s fairly classical vocabulary. We shall see. Check out the website.
Armitage Gone! performs at the Joyce Theater from 4/26-5/08.

To the tune of uncertainty, I shall begin my discussion of Dance Brazil who just concluded their run at the Joyce (jeez, it’s a Joyce heavy entry today) on Sunday. I’ve always been compelled by martial arts, particularly the Brazilian, dance infused Capoeira. Hearing that the contemporary/Brazilian cultural/Capoeira company, Dance Brazil, was in town, my visiting parents and I, looking for some early entertainment, decided to go.
The company, composed of 8 super-human, ultra fit men and 4 sexy, curly haired women, were the physical representation of anatomical perfection. Part of me thinks that just being able to look at those magnificent bodies warranted the ticket price! Dance Brazil presented 3 pieces, broken up by 2 unnecessarily long intermissions. The trio of work left me asking one question in many ways: why? Why does every dance break, and, yes, they felt like dance breaks, have to have either the entire company, or a good part of it, facing the audience and executing  trite, poppy, extra smiley movement en masse. Why not utilize the polyrhythms being played superbly by the musicians? Why not just make it a Capoeira show? After all, the entire audience seemed to await the moments when the Capoeiristas took over. Their bodies, glistening with sweat and as perfect as DaVinci’s Vitruvian man, flew through the air at inhuman heights and landed with soundless ease.
I, however, did not leave disappointed, as there was rarely a moment of boredom. No, instead, I departed feeling the childlike giddiness that remains after a circus or an Olympic gymnastics exposition. Is it dance? Dance Brazil could leave the dancing behind, as it was, by far, the weakest aspect of the program. They could fly higher by fully embracing and presenting themselves as a troupe of Capoiristas. Make it the spectacle that it longs to be.  Dance=weak. Tricks=wonderful and artfully done. The capoiristas are the heart and soul of this company.
Go to see Dance Brazil for a good time but don’t expect to be moved to tears or inspiration…or at all. That is unless you yourself are one of the super-humans on your way to taking over the planet with your Capoeira skills.

Goodnight to all! Enjoy the fresh blossoms and let the spring shower you with brightness and love. Re-awaken your soul and let the warmth spark your inspiration.

Much love,