This past Thursday, Joyce SoHo theater hosted the New Dance Alliance (NDA) Mix Festival. It was definitely a diverse blend of artists and the small, intimate space really let the choreography shine through. The program consisted of six pieces, all different choreographers, some of which just hopped on the subway while other’s flew for hours to meet up for an evening of expression and artistic fulfillment.
As the lights dimmed for the first piece, I was expecting to hear a shuffle of feet walking onto the stage but was pleasantly surprised when the stage lights didn’t come on; in their place, a short film began, part three of a measure of silence. It is silent movie with random footage of New York and its people. Many of the shots were taken through windows, as if the man behind the lens was spying or trying to catch a glimpse of everyday life. It was a combination of both modern day Manhattan and some older Victorian style photos. The artist’s name is Janusz Jawkorski, he has a true eye and imagination to capture what we all see daily but forces us to really see it, rather than just notice it. The audience sat in complete silence, totally consumed by the images that played before them.
The first thing you’ll notice about Cid Pearlman’s Fire Sale is the interesting use of set design. The piece revolves around four characters, two male, two female, all different ages but the fascinating thing is that the entire work takes place within and around an 8’ x 8’ checkerboard and two chairs. The artists were exceptional not only in their movement and range, using their bodies to communicate a variety of human emotions, but also with the task of incorporating the chairs into the piece. Throughout the ballet I felt as if I was having one of those dreams that make absolutely no sense but all the sense in the world at the same time. Pearlman, who is based in Santa Cruz, has a unique talent for organic transitions. Whether it be two dancers exchanging places on stage or a quick costume switch, she makes them smooth, logical yet surprising. Fire Sale really leaves you wondering what will come next and when it happens you’re delighted but also amazed at how each movement and scene flow one into the next from beginning to end.
Second in the program was an excerpt from H to Oh. Pele Bauch, who choreographed and performed the solo, developed a very interesting and moving work. The story begins with a blue lit backdrop and the sound of summer, water being poured and crickets singing. She begins to move, letting us into her world, where on the outside it’s a sweet, summer evening but inside she’s clearing distraught and agitated. The stage is bare except for the Bauch, a watering can and a small pool filled with water. The strength of the expert is its ability to engulf the audience in the atmosphere, you completely forget you’re sitting in a theater. Her movements range from calm to electric and suddenly she runs across stage and jumps into the pool. The dancer continues to move in the water as the piece ends and there is really quite a beauty to her awkward movement, a real sense of battle between calm and chaos that draws you in.
After a couple of very strong pieces two dancers run onto to the stage pulling at each other, flinging about the space. This is the beginning of Man and Mouse by the Montreal group that, fittingly, call themselves The Choreographers. Two out of the four creators perform the piece that is appropriately named seeing as she, Audree Juteau, stands approximately five feet tall and her partner, Peter Trosztmer, clearly over six. The couple reminded me of acrobatic magnets, they send each other flying across stage, into jaw dropping lifts and shapes on the floor but they seem to be unable to function without each other. A natural chemistry works between the dancers, completely drawn to each other, unable to break apart. As soon as they separate a lull falls over the stage. The humorous and enjoyable piece really resembles a Beauty and the Beast type story. The Choreographers used a real creative mix of music, everything from traditional classical to opera to more modern sounds. The dancers even sing and mumble throughout the piece. It winds down to a bit of a somber finale, but just when you think it’s going to end on a sad note, they catch you smiling with a very endearing end pose that makes you want to hug the person sitting next to you.
Philadelphia performer/choreographer, Shavon Norris was next on the program. Her piece entitled Said begins with a spotlight on a beautiful African American woman wearing a simple canary yellow dress and speaking. She recites a poem as her body moves with the words, breaking and reviving itself. She does all this with her eyes closed and both her movements and speech are filled with a very strong, powerful overtone. As we move through Norris’s choreography she opens her eyes and drifts about the stage, a great mix of modern dance, contemporary movement and color of cultural elements. Now all the strength from her moment in the spotlight has consumed the stage. After a full range of emotions the dance ends where it began, center stage, as it fades to black.
The Frying Pan’s Too Wide closes the evening at Joyce SoHo. The two witty choreographers are the Toronto, female duo Sarah Bild and Susanna Hood. They give “using your body as an instrument” a whole new and exciting meaning. Performing their own piece they use everything from the tips of their toes to the expressive ability of their eyebrows. The most interesting concept of this work is that there is no music or rather, the music comes from within the dancers. It’s a mix of advanced baby babbling and operatic song that fuels their movements. The entire piece has a wonderful air of comedy and is genuinely refreshing. As if dance, exploratory movement, and voice were not enough, the two jump on the square, red table in the middle of the stage and begin to speak. The words are real but the sentences don’t exactly make sense as the women talk, not in unison. “After all, it’s variety that keeps the heart fonder.” They say and I do believe that’s true, the piece offered a great deal of variety that definitely captured the audience’s heart.
New Dance Alliance strives to bring artists and their work to the public. They believe that visual art is an essential part of our world and actively work towards promoting what they stand for. NDA has successfully succeeded with this evening’s program offering its viewers six very different outlooks on the world, some lighthearted while others very deep. Perhaps, Bild and Hood’s piece presented the slogan for the night, that without variety our lives would be boring. Each of these ballets provided us with new and interesting ideas and the artists showed us that dance has grown beyond tendus and grande jetes; it’s a full body art where limitations don’t exist.
Top Left: Cid Pearlman, Photography by Steve DiBartolomeo
Mid Right: Pele Bauch, Photography by Steven Schreiber
iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Sofia Konstance Uralsky
Performance: New Dance Alliance Mix Festival
Choreographers: Cid Pearlman; Pele Bauch; The Choreographers; Shavon Norris; Sarah Bild and Susanna Hood.
Film: Janusz Jaworski
Venue: Joyce SoHo, New York.
Date: February 26, 2009
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