Thursday night I packed my bags for New York’s Best Staycation… a trip to the FringeNYC… a festival of over 201 shows breaking onto the city’s performing arts scene. “Face the Music… and Dance!”, produced by Rachel Routh and directed by Tina Croll, celebrated five contemporary modern choreographers and enjoyed sold out crowds this weekend at 440 Studios on Lafayette Street! From nudity in blow-up swimming pools to microphone wires to the live music of Japanese shakuhachi flutes…. it was a pleasant evening for dance.
The show begins shortly after I treat myself to a Starbucks iced caramel macchiato and casually stroll down the street toward the theatre space…. Suddenly a sprite little dancer, shadowed by her team of live musicians, catches my eye. It is Noa Sagie, choreographer and dancer for the evening’s first piece- giving away a free pre-show in the streets to a throng of passer-bys… all sporting facial expressions that range from intrigue to utter confusion. I study her for a while as she whirls her way through passing strangers, playfully flirting in her red dress with lots of heightened animation. Once I decide to leave the curious street dancer behind, I find myself in the elevator, uber-cheerfully greeted by yet another dancer in character, Hyosun Choi, telling everyone to “keep clean” as she wipes down the walls of the elevator frantically. Another bit of foreshadowing?
Finally, I reach the 3rd floor where many disappointed Fringe-show-goers are turned away… SOLD OUT. Very exciting for the production team! I, with my iDANZ ticket firmly in grasp, enter proudly and take my spot in the front row! Go iDANZ!
Once seated, I take note of yet another pre-show dancer, lying in a tiny blow-up kiddie pool, looking relaxed and exploratory while the crowd files in. The music team attempts to butter up the audience with some “Tell me your name, I’ll tell you mine” jokes…which may or may not have fallen a little flat. Good intentions though. They get me to remember their names - Rick, Brian, and Perry!
The first piece is by far my favorite. Danced ever so graciously by all four female dancers, “Degas duck dag” fuses artful nudity with silly humor, then hits it home with intensely choreographed , athletic contemporary movement. Choreographer Noa Sagie truly understands how to make the most of a musical moment and doesn’t take herself too seriously which makes for an uplifting refreshment.
She opens the piece with her “pool dancer” standing up in her bathing suit, turning to the back, and removing her top. Hair flowing, she explores the landscape of her body, which I must say was stunning, conveying the experience of taking a shower for the first time. As she discovers herself, so does the audience… in a big way. What starts out as profile nudity, turns quickly into a ready-or-not full frontal experience! Not sure how I feel about it, but one thing is certain, this dancer has guts!
The piece quickly changes gears when her three sidekicks enter wearing buckle-under-the-chin swim-caps and shimmering cocktail dresses. They gallivant about the stage like characters from a strange dream, armed with squeaky rubber duckies and big personalities. The piece gathers momentum and really shows off Sagie’s gift for utilizing contemporary movement while simultaneously delving into the quirky colors of the music. The intention is to awaken Sagie’s view of Edward Degas’ paintings. Let’s hope we see more from her soon! Dancers: Noa Sagie, Hyosun Choi, Madelyn Biven, Meredith Blouin, and Sara Genoves-Sylvan.
Wooden Heart, featuring choreography by Julian Barnett offers some interest to the evening with two dancers, male and female, dancing around a microphone and wire. The piece opens with Jocelyn Tobias, microphone in hand, anxiously pacing around the stage- “Dare I speak into the mic?”, her body says. In the background, we hear a radio hour talking about how men can hold their liquor better than women. Eventually, to the sounds of Portishead, she sings (quite well) and then partners with Julian Barnett himself. Barnett offers vivid, fresh choreography – my favorite part being the final section- Barnett acting as a puppet as Tobias stands behind him, arms on top of his, maneuvering his body in a seamless necklace of transitions.
Jet Stream, by Maura Ngyuen Donohue, adds live music into the mix with three flute players with big personalities. Donohue offers solid choreography, danced by herself and Julian Barnett, plus the well-placed musicians, (playing serene tunes reminiscent of a day at the spa), but I must admit this is the least memorable piece of the evening.
Choreographer Heidi Latsky jolts us with testosterone in What Would You Have Done?, a modern duo between dancers Jeffrey Freeze and Luke Murphy. Inspired by the ending scene of the Reader, (which I have yet to see) this piece explores humanity and unity in response to hate. The staggeringly tall and lean Murphy contrasts greatly with the compact Freeze, and intensity only rises from the start of the piece to the finish. Highly physical and mind-numbingly serious, we wonder what is coming next as the two boys throw themselves and each other around the floor in an urgent shirtless frenzy!
Finally, director and choreographer Tina Croll brings a party in black to the stage with The Stamping Ground. Croll uses a cornucopia of dancers, with a wide range of shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities to convey her message that gathering people together is our only hope in supporting each other through these difficult times. The pack runs around in circles, seemingly following each other, then performs simplistic choreography in unison to display the beauty of individuality- joined together. Dancers: Einy Aam, Mona Afable, Philippa Anderson, Erin DeLuca-Benson, Celia Devoe, Michelle Durante, Michelle Gilligan, Andrea Gise, Scott Lewis, Marissa Maislin, Ashley Marinelli, Alicia McConnell, Alexandra Mount-Campbell, Carla Reitano, Rossana Russo, Morgelyn Tenbeth-Ward, Helena Teply-Figman
Overall, a successful evening for dance! I highly recommend for any of you bored dancers… Take a staycation and take advantage of the many Fringe and NYMF shows coming up in this city! Remember, in supporting each other, we all succeed in sharing this art we all love.
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iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Sheena DiMatteo
Performance: Face the Music ... and Dance! -as part of FringeNYC 2009
Choreographers: Noa Sagie, Julian Barnett, Heidi Latsky,
Venue: Robert Moss Theater, New York City
Performance Date: August 27, 2009
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