Review: After The Rain / Joffrey Ballet / March 1 / Detroit Opera House

By David Benoit-Mohan, Chevalier (O.P.A.), B.A., M.S., M.D., D.A.B.F.M., D.A.B.I.M.

AFTER THE RAIN© (pas de deux)

After The Rain / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Christopher Wheeldon

After The Rain / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Christopher Wheeldon

Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Arvo Pärt, Staged by Jason Fowler, Costumes by Holly Hines, Lighting by Jack Mehler after Mark Stanley, Dancers April Daly and Miguel Blanco.

I attended a performance of the Joffrey Ballet on Saturday March 1, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the Detroit Opera House, a programme that included the piece, AFTER THE RAIN, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to the music of Arvo Pärt. The way AFTER THE RAIN was presented was so stunningly beautiful that I was moved to review the piece to encourage as many as can, to see it. Set to the evocative score of Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror, literally), and done with exquisite costuming, AFTER THE RAIN is a whispered, tonal and dynamic exegesis on love. It is perhaps one of the more beautiful pas de deux ever choreographed, and April Daly and Miguel Blanco make it live. The choreography ostensibly shows the changing closeness and distance encapsulated by a loving relationship, with each dancer evincing their desire to understand the other’s heart and mind– a delicate and often timorous journey. There are heroic strains of love, often almost painterly impressions of reflective clarity, soft murmurs of frustration, times of introspective detachment, moments of isolated longing and a return to the vital life force of love. The Joffrey does this to perfection. The sculptural poise, counterbalance and overwhelming tenderness of feeling in each movement will grip any viewer’s heart in a deeply human way. The flawless use of the line, the masterful développé, the sublime attitudes and lyrical arabesques with eloquent lifts and dramatic transitions took this choreography beyond art and into the realm of spirituality. It is simply one of the most breathtaking pas de deux that I have ever seen.

DDC’s “What’s New” Concert

DDCdances – 2014 SEASON FINALE CONCERT

DDCdances presents their season finale concert, What’s New, on April 11, 8 PM at the Wallace Smith Theater, Oakland Community College, Farmington Hills.

“Indivisible” – photo by Steve Selinger

The evening features the premiere of Indivisible, a theatrical, thought-provoking work choreographed by Barbara Selinger, DDC’s artistic director and award winning choreographer. Indivisible includes projections of historic images of the Heidelberg Project, Detroit, photographed by Bernadine Vida. This powerful piece is not to be missed!

DDC also premieres a stunning quartet by Corinne Imberski, former DDC dance artist and choreographer. The piece (untitled to date) is a beautifully designed work of art performed to the music of Bela Bartok.

“The Room” – photo by Steve Selinger

The concert will present excerpts from the The Room, current DDC repertory, choreographed by Barbara Selinger. The Room integrates projected images of John Sobczak’s exquisite photography that creates a captivating environment on stage.

From Windsor, the amazing HNM Dance Company, artistic director Anh Nguyen, will also perform two wonderful pieces. Bolero, choreographed by Nguyen, is upbeat, fun and will definitely put a smile on your face. HNM will also perform the magnificent Miserere by David Earle, artistic director and founder of Dancetheatre David Earle, whose passionate dance works touch the human spirit. You’ll be inspired.

DDC Dancers: Amy Hutchison, Ann Arbor; Susan Clayton, Ferndale; David Guzman, Southgate; Elizabeth Schultz, Ypsilanti, Barbara Selinger, Farmington Hills.

Tickets for What’s New:

At the Door: $20 (cash or check only)

Online Only: Advanced Sale Discount $16 (credit card)

Group Sales (10 or more): $10 arrange via email barb@detroitdancecollective.org

To order tickets and for more info: www.detroitdancecollective.org or 810-444-4553

Please visit www.detroitdancecollective.org for further information about the concert and DDCdances.

DDC is funded in part by the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts and individual contributions.

Review: Joffrey Ballet / Detroit Opera House / March 1& 2, 2014

By Julie Gervais

The Joffrey Ballet brought a perfectly-balanced program to the Detroit Opera House last weekend, March 1 & 2. It was an affirmation of what has always mattered about ballet, and a strong indicator of why ballet will continue to matter no matter how many people have tried to stick a fork in it.

Interplay / Joffrey Ballet Chor. Jerome Robbins

Interplay / Joffrey Ballet
Chor. Jerome Robbins

The freshness of Jerome Robbins 1945 Interplay is untarnished by the years, but is now a kind of period freshness. Time has not subtracted a single bit of fun from this work. Its construction is so careful that it creates the impression of carefree whimsical play, bubbling over with the exuberance of the (soon to be) post-war American spirit.  The group (8 dancers) engages in friendly competitions, starts chain reactions, tries to outdo themselves and each other. They might be on the brink of adulthood or maybe just shy of it – old enough to play at sexual innuendo yet young enough to not take it too seriously. There’s a fun time travel aspect, as occasional flashes appear of the iconic style and choreography that would eventually blossom into West Side Story, still 12 years in the future. There is abundant nostalgia these days for what some call the ‘pre-ironic age’. Whether that ever really existed or not, the piece is easy to love.

After The Rain / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Christopher Wheeldon

After The Rain / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Christopher Wheeldon

After The Rain, now one of Christopher Wheeldon’s worldwide signature works, is like one long breath. Its ability to capture and hold attention, using just the push and pull of emotional ties between two people, is a tribute to the power of dance. With his score, (Spiegel Im Spiegel, or Mirrors In The Mirror) Arvo Part proves that minimalist music can find a heart connection on what is, for most people, the first hearing. If perhaps Christine Rocas and Temur Suluashvili might have showed a bit more of the contrast between moments of closeness and moments of apart-ness, this was still a beautiful interpretation.

Son Of Chamber Symphony / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Stanton Welch

Son Of Chamber Symphony / Joffrey Ballet.
Chor. Stanton Welch

The next piece was the blockbuster of the program. Stanton Welch’s Son Of Chamber Symphony is everything that is great about contemporary ballet. It opens against a projection of bold square architectural lines against low light. The ballerina’s saucer-style tutu, a creation made possible by 21st century fabric technology, holds its shape and flatters the leg line without the traditional frou-frou underlayers of supporting tulle and net. The men’s tunics honor and yet depart from tradition with a cutaway in the chest that reveals their – gasp! – chests. Anastacia Holden’s exquisite movement quality sets up the entire ballet – calm and confident, she owns it with a special fierceness that is often the claim of ballerinas whose proportions don’t necessarily reflect current ideals. The ballet takes on deconstruction of tradition as a sort of investigation. What if…we put ‘expected’ steps and shapes in a few unexpected places? Or unpacked the whole idea of a final climaxing pas de deux just to see what makes it tick, and whether it can tick differently? It’s fascinating and compelling and purposely funny at times, such as in the role-reversal promenade in which the ballerina in parallel bourree supported her man’s one-legged tour lente. Or when the principal ballerina makes her way slowly in a downstage diagonal through a sea of identically dressed women – latter-day shades or swans. It feels rich in imagery but austerely so, not opulent. Think Silicon Valley rather than Moscow. It is danced super clean and with an urgency that can give meaning to abstraction. It’s as though the dancers are hell-bent on sharing their acquired knowledge and insight into the music (John Adams’ work by the same name). This commitment to communicate is a key piece of the work’s success. There is much contemporary ballet that confuses an austere esthetic with emotional emptiness, or that fails to use movement to illuminate the music and the reason for the choreographer’s interest in it. Son Of Chamber Symphony is simply fabulous and deserves a long life on the stage.

Nine Sinatra Songs / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Twyla Tharp

Nine Sinatra Songs / Joffrey Ballet. Chor. Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp’s crowd-pleasing Nine Sinatra Songs was the crowd-pleasing closer, a smart choice even though it’s not from her ‘best of’ collection. Some steps are re-used to the point of redundancy, some simply don’t work very well and the scale of it looked a little lonely on the DOH stage. But this 30-year old piece earns its place in permanent rotation through Tharp’s keen showmanship. Lucas Segovia deserves special mention for his comedy skills, hitting just the right notes to put a hilarious spin at just the right times. Everyone left with a song in their hearts.

 

Review: I Am Guilty / 8th Detroit Dance Race / Greektown, Detroit

DSCF1251

Rachael Ahn Harbert in ‘I Am Guilty’. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec.

By David Benoit Mohan
 ”I am guilty”
Choreography by Rachael Ahn Harbert
Performed by Rachael Ahn Harbert (dancer) and Matt Daher (percussionist) at the 8th Detroit Dance Race held at artLabJ, Feb. 22, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

I had the privilege to attend last night’s performance of Rachael Ahn Harbert’s piece, “I am guilty,” a poetic essay on the societal imposition of guilt upon those who violate those cultural norms which in themselves have no moral value.

The dance truly started before the music began with the staging of the “crime-” that of the dancer eating a slice of cake, downstage centre, the implication being that the consumption of sweets is forbidden to her (because of her profession). 

This. Now. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

This. Now. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

 

In the distinctive mise-en-scène, percussion instruments line stage right, from snare and base upstage, to toms at centre to cymbals downstage. They are played in that order by a male protagonist in red flannel pyjamas. The female dancer is upstage left, standing in a zinc bucket against a white square pillar, red paint on the palms of her hands. She  realises that she is caught “red-handed,” in breaking the code of her micro-culture, and stands trembling in her bucket, child-like in a white dress. Guilt thunders down upon her, the state of her heart echoed in the percussion’s tremulous and cacaphonic dissonance. In a series of eloquent contractions, the full horror of what she has done becomes internalised, with attendant revulsion and self loathing. The guilt is overpowering. She forcibly silences the strident drums of remorse, that she may think with clarity.

It is then that revelation occurs. In an almost Kantian metaphor, she realises the superficiality of anti-normative culpability, wiping the red stain off her hands onto her white dress, and understands that she has no need for “self-contempt and inner abhorrence, [sic]” not having violated the moral law. What followed was a satirical farce born out of this new-found illumination. Mocking the expressions of former guilt, with heart resounding in the lightness of cymbals, she is able to resolve her erstwhile conflict.

The last choreographic idea was pure genius. The dancer becomes aware that the percussionist is slowly approaching the remnants of the cake. This can be interpreted in two different ways, and the fact that Ms. Harbert is able to fully develop each of these themes in closing the piece is testament to her intelligence and skill as a choreographer:

1.) There are still remnants of the cake, representing decisions in her future life as to whether or not she will continue to follow societal norms which have no intrinsic merit

2.) There develops a mother-child relationship between herself and the percussionist, as she tries to stop him from eating the cake.

Vying. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Vying. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Is she blindly reverting to the micro-environment’s imposed values as she tries to prevent him from committing an “artificial” crime? If so, there is inherent hypocrisy, as her dress is still smeared with the red paint of guilt.  

 

 

 

In the final sequence, both she and the child-figure of the percussionist run towards the cake, each either with complete disregard for the other OR, which is more likely, in competition with each other.

Who will get there first? Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Who will get there first? Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Regardless of which view one puts upon the ending, both are hopeful interpretations, as in both instances, de-individualism has given way to actualisation.  It was a brilliant piece, and as with the rest of this artist’s oeuvre, it evinces a high calibre of talent in the genre of experimental dance theatre. Rachael Ahn Harbert’s star is rising.

David Benoit Mohan, B.A., M.S., M.D., D.A.B.F.M., D.A.B.I.M.
Chevalier, Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Republic of France)

Review: 7th Detroit Dance Race / Dec 20 / Greektown Detroit

ChelseaRadgensBy Chelsea Radgens

Friday, December 20th 2013 7pm

Once again, artLab J has created a diverse dance showcase that makes an enjoyable night for any dance lover. From students to professionals, the 7th Detroit Dance Race was a great sample of local artists.

Alma College Dance Company started off the show with a piece, choreographed by Alma College senior Chelsea Radgens (myself), called “Foil”. Dancers Mackensie Garlow and Morgan Markowicz complimented each other beautifully in a work that is meant to represent two sides of the same coin; Markowicz embodied chaos with fire in each high-powered step, while Garlow remained controlled and poised through each sustained pose. As far as I could tell, the show was off to a good start.

Duets exploring female relationships seemed to be a theme of the evening, as also demonstrated in “Awakening” by Jodie Randolph of Pure Existence Dance Company. Gorgeous, extended lunges abound, dancers Megan Scheppelman and Nikki Steltenkamp expressed the influence and loss of a friend in this pleasing piece. Or perhaps this dance was about the two sides of one person, and how one can wake up if a part of them leaves. Whatever the interpretation, Pure Existence Dance Company is usually a favorite for me. Randolph creates a very distinctive style that demonstrates the immense strength, control, and emotional talents of her young dancers. The music, costumes, and even the steps themselves, are arguably minimalist to convey a relatable message in a lovely form.

Continuing the duet theme, Eisenhower dancer Alicia Cutaia contributed “Tussle”, focusing on a distinctly romantic relationship. I’m sure any dancer in the audience would not hesitate to comment on the expressiveness of Cutaia’s feet; they were quite gorgeous, to be put plainly. There was also no doubt about the trust that Cutaia had in her sturdy partner, Russ Stark. Lifting her effortlessly throughout the piece, this was a couple that one did not feel worried to watch. He was always there, tossing his partner with ease and awareness. There was even an audible gasp from audience members when Cutaia’s leg got a bit too close to the ceiling, but with help from her careful partner, she of course did not hit it. “Tussle” was a nice change up from female duets while still exploring the relationship between two people.

Lauren M-R Taylor switched it up with her subtly theatrical work, “MOLD”. This work utilized four dancers who alternated between supporting one another and pushing past them. Taylor utilized counterbalance to parallel the balancing act that is appeasing others versus staying true to oneself. Other dancers pulled and prodded at themselves, struggling with how to express themselves and overcome challenges. One of my favorite moments was a long sustained hinge that ended with the dancers on the floor on their backs. Each of the four dancers was controlled, demonstrating the large amount of body awareness and core strength that the dancers must have. Aside from the dancing itself, “MOLD” was a story, which transitioned nicely into the next piece as well.

Body Rhythm Dance Theater presented two pieces from the work “5 conversations about the same thang”, both choreographed by Edgar Page.. The first piece “Words I can’t Unsay”, was a overtly sensual duet. Dressed in a nightgown and underclothes, dancers Christopher Woolfork and Janel Davis (Indigo Colbert for the Saturday night show) explored the sexual side of a romantic relationship. When paired with the next piece , “My love is like…”, it seemed to tell the story of a married couple and the husband’s mistress. “My love is like…” then seems to be a woman’s solo, offering up a different, sympathetic look at the other woman. Soloist Ta’rajee Omar was emotional and danced with an impressively consistent amount of energy through a multitude of layouts, turns, and quickly changing positions. The following intermission allowed the audience to digest the pieces, while allowing the messages to sink in.

After intermission, artLab J performed “CHANGE”, a duet between Rachael Ahn Harbert and Edgar Page.  As per usual artLab J style, the piece was refreshing in its simplicity and lovely message. Dances Rachael Harbert and Edgar Page moved together compatibly and the artists’ emotional intent was clear throughout the piece; both dancers are blessed with incredibly expressive faces. “CHANGE” was also a multimedia presentation, as the piece opened with a video of various artLab J dancers asking people for change during Detroit’s Noel Nights. Though they didn’t get any change from the people in the video, “CHANGE” gave the audience hope for Detroit.

Equally comforting was Jennifer Harge’s “I said, there are no people here”. Movements were simple and easy to take in, though this piece had a surprise. Harge began asking people in the audience if they’d like to dance with her, and though this is an unconventional move, I felt completely at ease and blissful watching Harge as she calmly and gracefully instructed three audience members. Though Harge’s title evokes a sense of cynicism, as Harge and her three random audience members walked off the stage unified, it was quite uplifting indeed.

Next up was one of my favorite duos from last year’s Detroit Dance City Festival: The Umbrella Co. from New York.  Stephanie Booth and Jessica Parks performed one of the most athletic pieces in the show, “Epitome of Femininity” with a sense of coolness and confidence. The choreography was very based in modern dance, though it clearly was inspired by elements of yoga and pilates as well. Every step was clear and concise, and the dancers’ chemistry was engaging to watch. One of my favorite things about The Umbrella Co. is their impeccable use of breath. Synchronized breathing, especially in moments of silence, allowed a new layer of togetherness and energy to transpire, leaving the audience in a state of breathlessness. It was a joy to see The Umbrella Co in the summer, and it was delightful to be granted an opportunity to watch them again.

Finally, The Detroit Tap Repertory switched things up with “River” and “Winter SOLEstice”. Though the dancers are young, they are every bit as professional and talented as any of the previous acts. I don’t know very much about tap, but they are definitely impressive to watch. The dancers wholly engaged the audience with playful faces, and as the last bit was a Christmas medley, it was perfect for the time of year; I know I left with a huge grin on my face, and warmth inside my soul.

 

Review: Detroit Dance Race / December 21 / Greektown Detroit

By Michelle Quenon

On Saturday, December 21st at seven o’clock in the artLab J studio, the 7th Detroit Dance Race was about to begin. With just two rows of chairs for the audience to sit, the setting was very intimate, creating a vulnerability for both the performers and the audience members; a sensation that is most often missing in bigger venues such as a theatre. That being said, watching the pieces performed in the artLab J studio was a very refreshing experience. The choreographers all tailored their pieces to be seen at a close visual range, and, after the audience got over the initial closeness of the performers, the intimate setting transformed into a warm and exciting atmosphere full of encouragement and appreciation on the part of both the audience and the performers.

Foil / Chor. Chelsea Radgens Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Foil / Chor. Chelsea Radgens
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The program started with a piece choreographed by Chelsea Radgens entitled Foil. As the title suggests, the two dancers–Mackensie Garlow and Morgan Markowicz–were indeed foils of each other. This idea was reflected beautifully with the music, as the duet between the two string instruments mimicked the movements of the dancers, separating them visually and audibly but still connecting them as one undoubtable entity. The intermittent segments of unison dancing aided in heightening the stark contrast of Garlow’s poised lyricism and Markowicz’s vibrant virtuosity. The piece was well performed and very interesting to watch.

Following Foil was a piece called Awakening, choreographed by Jodie Randolph and danced by Megan Scheppelman and Nikki Steltenkamp. Right from the start, the piece was very engaging. The calm fluidity of the dancers gave the piece an almost hypnotic

Awakening / Chor. Jodie Randolph Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Awakening / Chor. Jodie Randolph
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

feeling and both dancers were able to make their movements expansive without breaking the delicacy of the piece. Also, the connection between the two dancers, along with the connection they held with the audience contributed to a spellbinding performance from start to finish.

The third piece of the program, Tussle, was choreographed by Alicia Cutaia and performed by herself and Russ Stark.

Tussle / Chor. Alicia Cutaia. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Tussle / Chor. Alicia Cutaia.
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Both dancers moved beautifully and with much technical precision. There was much creative partnering that held the audience captivated and even drew audible sounds from its members at certain points. For the most part, the interactions between the two dancers were languid and tender, though there were subtle hints at a “tussle,” performed in the same tender way. Movement-wise, the two were in perfect harmony, though the lack of a strong emotional connection between the dancers, whether intentional or not, was unclear. This aside, the piece was still very captivating to watch.

The program continued with a piece choreographed by Lauren M-R Taylor called MOLD.

MOLD / Chor. Lauren M-R Taylor Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

MOLD / Chor. Lauren M-R Taylor
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The piece started out with some very interesting formations by the four dancers, and moments of stillness were used very effectively. The dancers were very engaged with one another, and as they all began to break away from their solos and come together, there was a real sense of camaraderie that developed among them. They became–as the title of the piece suggests–a mold.

The next two pieces of the program were performed by the Body Rhythm Dance Theatre and choreographed by Edgar L. Page. The first piece, Words I can’t unsay, was  tensely calm and sexual, with the dancers displaying an intense physical and emotional connection with one another. This was contrasted greatly with the second piece, My love

My Love Is Like... / Chor. Edgar Page Photo Scott Lipiec

My Love Is Like… / Chor. Edgar Page
Photo Scott Lipiec

is like…, in which a solo performer, Ta’rajee Omar, took over the space with a deeply introverted solo of frustration, anger, and loneliness that had the audience bouncing between intrigued discomfort and enthralled mesmerism. It was powerfully expansive and yet exceedingly vulnerable at the same time. Omar never seemed to stop moving, and she contorted her body into positions that reflected her discomfort while still managing to keep everything as rich and languid as if she were moving through water. The piece was very captivating and definitely a crowd favorite.

CHANGE / Chor. Joori Jung Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

CHANGE / Chor. Joori Jung
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

CHANGE / Chor. Joori Jung Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

CHANGE / Chor. Joori Jung
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

After a brief intermission, the program continued with CHANGE, the artLab J dance choreographed by Joori Jung and performed by Edgar Page and Rachael Ahn Harbert. After a short video illustrating the want and need for change in the perception of the arts in Detroit, the dancers began to play with double entendres, as Harbert continually held out her hand and asked Page for “Change?” The duet that followed was slow with unconcealed weightedness and drudgery, though there were undoubtable moments of hope. Overall, the peace was very well executed and thought provoking.

Following CHANGE was I said, “there are no people here,” choreographed and danced by Jennifer Harge. Harge began by facing away from the audience and moving her feet in a box pattern, as though ballroom dancing with herself. The music–choral singing–along with the choreography produced a heightened sense of loneliness. At one point, Harge stopped dancing and looked out at all the members of the audience. At such close proximity, a frank acknowledgement from a performer can leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, but Harge’s clam, sincere gaze, along with the beautiful voices of her soundtrack, had the opposite effect. She then proceeded to pick three people out of the audience to dance with her onstage. As she quietly went around to each of her newly gathered performers, showing them each what to do, their movements began to mesh together, rendering the title of her piece irrelevant and leaving the audience feeling very inspired.

The Epitome of Femininity / Chor. Stephanie Booth, Jessica Parks Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The Epitome of Femininity / Chor. Stephanie Booth, Jessica Parks
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The program continued with a piece entitled The Epitome of Femininity with choreography and performances by Stephanie Booth and Jessica Parks. Both dancers were clad in relatively androgynous costumes–spandex shorts and grey tank tops. Their dancing was beautiful, sensual, powerful and deliberate, displaying athleticism and grace. The minimalistic music and costumes aided the dancers in stripping away all preconceived notions of “femininity,” and bringing a refreshing take on a usually overworked subject. The connection the dancers held with the audience was very amusing. While working their way in and out of strenuous poses with apparent ease, they shot looks at the audience, as though daring its members to contradict them and their displays of femininity.

To conclude the program, the Detroit Tap Repertory performed River and Winter SOLEstice. River was danced to surprisingly slow music, though the intricacy of the steps and the complicated rhythms were all clearly present. The second piece, SOLEstice, was an enjoyable and upbeat dance to holiday music. It provided a very fun ending to the program.

Detroit Tap Repertory Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Detroit Tap Repertory
Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

WSU DANCERS TO PERFORM AT THE JOYCE THEATER, NYC

By Julie Gervais

It’s the fourth of November, which means that ten students from Wayne State University have just seventeen days before they will perform twenty-two of the most challenging dance minutes of their lives.

Dancepanorama caught up with Meg Paul, Ballet Lecturer in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theater & Dance at WSU and the rehearsal director for ‘Hissy Fits’ – a work created by Dwight Rhoden, who founded and co-directs Complexions Contemporary Ballet with dance world superstar Desmond Richardson.  Meg is also the Director of the CCB Summer Intensive at WSU, an educational outreach partnership begun three years ago. It’s been a great fit from the start – having danced with the Company, she has an insider’s understanding of both their movement style and their mission. It’s a mission that is strong on diversity and individuality, and Detroit has embraced it with open arms.

Dwight Rhoden

Dwight Rhoden

The path to twenty-two minutes began with a nine-day residency that kicked off on day one of the fall semester. Mr. Rhoden chose his cast, and they reported in to the studio after the academic day at 4 pm to begin a six-hour rehearsal. Until Labor Day weekend, when the holiday time afforded eight to nine hours of rehearsal per day: eighty hours and counting.

The music for Hissy Fits is by J.S. Bach (I always wish that composers could see the incredible dance works that later generations have created with their music) and, like all Rhoden choreography, the movement is dense, complex, intricate. Multiple body parts moving at once, and mostly in unexpected ways – for both the dancer and the audience.

Hissy Fits rehearsal.

Hissy Fits rehearsal.

Ms. Paul reports that they handled it all like pros – not just the intense schedule, but the digging in to unfamiliar material, the getting out of their comfort zone. Even though each of the dancers performing (plus four understudies) had attended at least one of the Complexions summer sessions, stepping into a complete professional-level work is a big step beyond a student performance, and this is the original work – start to finish, no modifications. The partnering is especially challenging in Rhoden’s choreography, adding layers of difficulty that many students are encountering for the first time.

Dwight Rhoden At Work With His Cast

Dwight Rhoden At Work With His Cast

It is important to note Mr. Rhoden’s confidence in the WSU students’ ability to perform the work at the required level and his commitment to developing young dancers’ skills at this crucial point in their development. It would be easy for a choreographer who is in demand around the world to limit his schedule to seasoned professionals. He has chosen instead to reach out with a challenge and an opportunity to young dancers just on the verge of spreading their wings. It’s an inflection point, and can make all the difference in the world to a budding career.

Working It Out

Working It Out

Post-residency, Meg Paul directed all rehearsals, coaching and nurturing these young dancers. Nine additional weeks out, they are now approaching one hundred and twenty hours of work. The moment is getting closer.

On Thursday November 21, they will take the stage of The Joyce Theater in NYC. It’s an intimate but iconic venue for the dance world, a former film house renovated specifically for dance and still dedicated to it. A highlight of Complexions ten-day run at the Joyce is their Annual Gala on the 21st , and it is on this evening that the WSU dancers will perform – on the same program with the Company – by special invitation.

Dancer Kara Brody

Dancer Kara Brody

Congratulations to all of the dancers: Chris Braz, Michelle Brock, Kara Brody, Shauna Cook, Amber Golden, Sam Horning, Ashlee Merritt, Adam McGaw, Andrew Sanger, and James Vessell; and to understudies: Bianca Brengman, Bianca Bousamra, Zariah Fowler, and Ashley Kalchik. We wish them all the best success and enjoyment of every moment of this incredible opportunity.

Sneak-peek preview opportunity! There is a benefit performance on Wednesday November 6 in WSU’s Maggie Allesee Studio Theater at 7:30. Tickets (313) 577-4273.

 

 

Review: ArtLabJ 3 Solos / October 26 / Greektown, Detroit

artlabJ3solos

By Roberto Warren

The program consisted of three solo works by Wanjiru Kamuyu of WK Collective, Rachael Ahn Harbert, and “radical child”, performed by Alexander Dones.

The first piece, “Spiral”, performed by Wanjiru Kamuyu, was actually a reconstruction of a work originally created in 2005. The work explores the affects and effects of the imposed Western patriarchal idea of beauty standards while interrogating the acceptance and assimilation of and to these standards through old and new values that arise as a reaction to that dominant cultural context.

Wanjiru Kamuyu. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Wanjiru Kamuyu. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Ms. Kamuyu enters wearing a leotard, and a full Victorian-era skirt. Hung from the ceiling are bird cages with nude Barbie dolls in them. There is also one nude Ken doll in one of the cages. Talk about Western symbols of beauty. The skirt is iconic. A symbol of patriarchal Western beauty. Moving slowly, like a cat, with high extensions, she seems content with this image she has. But then she begins to clutch at the skirt as if to question herself. She pulls the skirt up and examines her feet and legs. Are her feet good enough? Are her legs good enough? She then begins to explore her social and emotional space. Test the waters of the Western illusion she is beginning to realize she has been living. She even develops a swagger, spiraling her body left and then right. Flipping her hand across her shoulder as if to brush off any negative commentary about her “image of perfection” and then turning to look at her shadow on the wall as if to reaffirm her image to herself. She bows to her shadow. She embraces herself. But then reality begins to set in. The movement becomes jagged and percussive as the conflict builds. With a fury and rapid fits of rebellion she fights her way out of the skirt…that symbol of Western “beauty”… But she can’t seem to break away. Is it Afros or hot combs? She smiles at the audience…or a potential suitor. “Hi how are you? Do you think I am beautiful?” Then the skirt comes off. She begins to discover herself. But no sooner than that happens she goes through Western-defined sexual rejection. The lights go dark and the real struggle and questioning begins.

Wanjiru Kamuyu. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Wanjiru Kamuyu. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Under the skirt she has been wearing ruffled bloomers. Another Victorian-era symbol. Under the symbol there has been another symbol. A cacophony of whispers and laughter ensues in the soundtrack. Yes…there are critics everywhere. But this is then overridden by the angelic voices of an African children’s choir. A reminder of who she really is…and slowly…she begins to accept that.

The second piece, “Stand Still”, danced by Rachael Ahn Harbert was a preview of an evening-length work in the making. Ms. Harbert starts out by introducing herself to the audience…literally….and then she gets 14 volunteers from the audience to join her in the dance space. They become part of her dance landscape, which also consists of mirrors, two large and rectangular, and one small and round. All on the floor, along with a 3-minute hourglass. She then gives each of the 14 audience members onstage a small round mirror to hold. And because the piece is called “Stand Still”, she instructs the audience members to do just that.

Rachael Harbert. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Rachael Harbert. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

In the first section of the piece, which she called “Death”, wearing a flesh colored top and shorts, she somersaults onto the floor, landing on her back, and uses her finger to monitor her pulse rate at her neck…and while the 3-minute hourglass runs out, she dies. Watched by 14 impassive onlookers.

In the next section of the piece, which she called “While You Were Sleeping”, she binds her 14 onlookers. In the center of the Art Lab J dance space, there are three poles. Seven of the onlookers stood on either side of the center pole, and between the two end poles. She strings a black rope around all three poles, gliding around, behind, and between her onlookers, totally immobilizing them. After all, when you are told to “stand still”, you are verbally being immobilized. You are being prevented from moving in space. But the ropes and poles also resembled telegraph wires. It could be said that if you are being told to “stand still” you are not to communicate with your fellow man. But at the same time, the people doing the immobilizing are free to move around, behind and through you.

In the last section of the piece, “Hall Of Mirrors”, she used the mirrors on the floor to beg the question, if you are looking at the floor, you see the floor, but if there is a mirror on the floor, and you are looking into it, are you seeing additional space? Can you move in that space? Indeed, and with her 14 “onlookers” holding mirrors, were they also seeing additional space?

Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The third piece of the evening, “play” was performed by radical child. Danced by Alexander Dones. With music by Samuel Beckett and Richard Wagner. What happens when you listen to the voices in your subconscious mind? And how are those voices compounded by what you hear in your conscious mind? Mr. Dones turned himself inside out. He dove headlong into this labyrinth of confusion, moving powerfully about the room. The voices took him into the air, onto the floor, into turns, put smiles on his face, frowns, and periodically caused him to hook himself in his mouth and pull his head back in supplication. If you pay attention to and react to everything your hear, your actions become frenzied. One action leads to another, and they don’t always lead you down a logical path. Life can be like that. And Mr. Dones showed that.

Kudos to Joori Jung and the staff at ArtLabJ for allowing such cutting-edge dance work to be presented in Detoit.

The evening's 3 Soloists. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec.

The evening’s 3 Soloists. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec.

 

 

 

Essay: On Performing in ‘Rite of Spring’ / August 22 / artLabJ

By Harriet Berg

There is an ancient saying: “Tell me what you dance and I will tell you who you are.”

Last week as part of the Detroit City Dance Festival, I participated in worldwide celebration of the 100th birthday performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” the seminal work of modernism of the 20th century.

As I stood on stage with the incredibly talented dancers of the Art Lab J Company as the brilliant choreography of Joori Jung unfolded, I felt the magnitude of the music, the images it evoked with the wild percussive sound, trumpets blaring, flutes singing. Nijinsky’s radical choreography, Nicola Roerich’s costumes and scenery based on ancient Russian legends. I felt the presence of the all the other companies who have participated in this yearlong celebration, whose choreographers chose to create their personal vision of this Rite, all linked through time and space to this company on the stage of the Boll Theater at the YMCA in downtown Detroit.

In her choreography, Joori Jung challenges the nature of male-female relationships and acquiescence to injustice in taut, articulate, gymnastic contemporary dance executed by a confident, well-trained company of Detroit dancers. At a time of so much bad news around Detroit, this “Rite of Spring” shows the city’s artists pushing up through the frozen ground of despair to celebrate their deep connections, not only to dance history, but to the regenerative power of the community of dance worldwide.

Reviews: artLab J Dance Company 1st Annual Gala & Detroit Dance City Festival, Aug 22-25

artlabjRite

Thursday August 22

YMCA Boll Theater ‘Rite of Spring’ 

juliegervais

 

 

 

 

 

by Julie Gervais / Bio on DP writers page

Detroit Dance City Festival preceded Friday’s kickoff with a Gala Performance on Thursday night at the YMCA Boll Theatre.

Artistic Director and Choreographer Joori Jung showed beautiful work. Her ‘Rite’ is dramatically taut, well-paced, and powerful.

She begins, as many versions do, with the entrance of the Sage Elder (Harriet Berg, in a part tailor-made for her), who performs wordless ritual incantations heralding the arrival of spring. Five dancers frolic in engaging patterns that shift alliances – sometimes it’s male-female partnering, other times it’s men against the women – but their seasonal joy is never unalloyed, as they know that there will soon be a victim chosen among them, her fate sealed.

Amber Golden, The Chosen One. Shown with Alexander Dones (L), Sam Horning (R). Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Amber Golden, The Chosen One. Shown with Alexander Dones (L), Sam Horning (R). Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

They do choose her (Amber Golden, who was eloquent), and they surround and trap her. The Elder re-appears and casts a sort of spell on the dancers, who enter a trance-like state (perfect for our current zombie-obsessed culture.)

This piece fit beautifully into the square black box space, and Ms. Jung has crafted movement patterns that are captivating and well-balanced. Sometimes there is unison, sometimes opposition, but throughout the dance it feels like the ‘right’ amount of movement. Her musicality is delightful; she doesn’t fight with the music or disdain it like so much contemporary choreography. There is a fountain in the downstage left corner, one of those plug-in types sold at big box stores. At first it seems gimmicky as a set piece, but as the dance goes on, it actually becomes poignant. Its consistent burbling, so pleasant and innocuous, stands in starker and starker contrast to the imminent violence.

The Chosen One, now in red and so clearly marked by the others, is a fighter. Time after time she exhausts herself in defiance of the fate the others have marked for her. There is some rough partnering; this is not a summer garden party but a ritual marking of the seasonal change that reflects the harshness of life.

Sam Horning, Amber Golden, Rachel Ahn Harbert, Marianne Brass, Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Sam Horning, Amber Golden, Rachel Ahn Harbert, Marianne Brass, Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The dancers in this piece are all excellent and are in great form after a summer full of rehearsals and classes. Their ensemble spirit is evident; they are a team and it shows. It has to be noted that their studio time, made possible by Joori Jung’s artLab J Studio, is a crucial addition to the ‘open’ dance scene in Detroit. Dancers need to work every day to develop and tune their instruments; it isn’t possible to create good work without a steady class & rehearsal schedule. For a city that has seemingly endless amounts of empty space, Detroit has been sorely lacking in suitable dance space and this is an important development.

Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The surprise ending of this ‘Rite’ shall not be spoiled here, in deference to its repeat showing on Sunday at 6pm, same location. Go and see it for yourself!

—————————————————————————————————————–

Thursday August 22

YMCA Boll Theatre ‘Dream City’ 

juliegervais

 

 

 

By Julie Gervais / Bio on DP writers page

Chris Braz, Alexander Dones in 'Dream City'. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Chris Braz, Alexander Dones. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Premiered in the spring of 2013, this work is a heartfelt and incisive look at the trajectory of Detroit – the guts and the glory, the ups and the downs. It deserves to be seen throughout the city and should be shown at events that reach beyond existing dance audiences. It was choreographed by Joori Jung, Artistic Director of artLab J, on her Company dancers.

There is a strong history of art as social commentary in Detroit – the Diego Rivera industry fresco cycle, the Joe Louis fist, the Heidelberg Project. How can it not be important to the future of dance to include this kind of work in our repertories?

Additionally, I am a fan of relatively short narrative works such as Dream City (under an hour). Long enough to realize an arc, short enough to hold attention as long as the action is tightly managed. This dance has a bigger cast – two men and five women, who were a bit crowded in this space. The cast also features a ladder that serves almost as an additional character, moving around the stage (well, being moved by others) as a versatile prop helps to help illustrate a range of ideas – elevation, entrapment, desperation, jubilation, and isolation.

Ms. Jung uses a wide variety of music, starting off with some new age-y sounds, which I had trouble placing in a historical context (but maybe the narrative isn’t meant to be chronological?).

Chris Braz (center), getting a little lift from his Motown ladies. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Chris Braz (center), getting a little lift from his Motown ladies. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

There is a Motown section – pure fun with laugh-out-loud moments; the dancers capture the elation of this period with authenticity. It must have felt like Detroit was at the center of the cultural world during this time.

Again in this piece, the artLab J Company is very good at shifting moods through modulations in movement quality. The neon tutus of Motown are followed quickly by a period of turbulence and turmoil. Everyone wears black costumes, torn up and distressed as the characters themselves seem to be – flinging themselves violently to the floor, fighting with each other, ganging up some against another. It’s upsetting, frankly – but so is life, sometimes.

It’s a sign of strength in her artistic vision that Ms. Jung does not shy away from the hard truths. Death does come, and with it comes a world of sorrow and regret. But humanity trends toward hope, for which the choreographer has devised a striking visual metaphor,  involving paint and skin tones and a vision for how much we have in common if we open up to putting ourselves inside someone else’s skin.

——————————————————————————————-

Friday August 23: YMCA Boll Theater 6pm & 8pm Performances, August 23, 2013

Jenkoralewskiby Jen Koralewski

Jen Koralewski received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance from Point Park University in 2009, with a concentration in jazz.  While at Point Park Jen received many opportunities to choreograph works on the Conservatory’s great talent.  Jen was also given the privilege to perform in an original work by Ron Tassone and to work with instructors such as Kiesha Lalama-White, Susan Stowe, and Judith Leifer-Bentz.    In 2011 Jen founded and became the Artistic Director of Motor City Dance Extension, a classical jazz based dance company out of the River Raisin Centre for the Arts.  She currently holds a teaching residency as the River Raisin Dance Academy’s jazz and modern instructor along with, teaching in the Metro-Detroit Area and working on various projects in the community.  Jen is most grateful for her family and the ability to wakeup everyday and do what she loves, DANCE!

This weekend the dance “boomers” took over the city with a beautiful sampling of dance.  I had the opportunity to see both performances at the YMCA Boll Theater Friday night.  The audience was treated with works from New York, Chicago, Oregon, and Michigan.  I love that we were able to share the beautiful parts of our city with so many people.

The variety of places the dancers came from went hand in hand with the variety of dances that were performed.  We saw everything from creative movement, belly dancing, classical Dunham, contemporary ballet, and modern.  Each dancer brought to the stage a beautiful level of commitment for their craft.

The pieces were creatively put together to create two wonderful shows.  It’s safe to say if you weren’t downtown for any part of the Detroit Dance City Festival, you missed out.  The audience was personally invited by Joori Jung (Artistic Director, Art LabJ) to attend the after party and meet some of the artists that performed that night at the Start Gallery in downtown Detroit, MI after the show.

I have loved the opportunity to be a witness to the growth in our dance community.  Joori Jung’s vision for Detroit is nothing short of poetic.  The evening felt as if I was being invited home to a city I have been to many times but now am able to see in a different light.  Discovering these somewhat hidden treasure spaces within the cracked concrete leaves me with hope for our artistic future.  Building the arts community in Detroit will not be an easy but I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get dirty with Joori and Art LabJ.

——————————————————————————————-

Friday August 23 Boll YMCA 6pm & artLab J 7:30 Performances, Sunday August 25 Boll YMCA 6pm & 8pm Performances 

PamMcIntyreBy Pamela Edwards MacIntyre

Pamela has over 25 years experience in teaching ballet, Cecchetti, pointe, lyrical, jazz, tap and contemporary. Throughout her career, she has appeared in many dance and theater productions in the US and Canada  has worked and trained with artists from the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Quinte Ballet School, and Mariinsky (Kirov) as well as many professionals from the Tap, Jazz, Lyrical and Contemporary industry . Pamela has studied with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London England and is currently active with the Cecchetti Council of America. Her strong belief in creating a positive and rewarding teaching environment, inspires her students to grow and develop as strong performers and dancers.  She is an award winning choreographer and coach and is known in the industry for growing technically strong dancers and inspiring performers. 

I had the opportunity this weekend to see an eclectic array of performances by artists from Chicago, New York, Detroit, Atlanta and Portland coming together to share their passion for dance in a festival arranged by ArtLab J. This well-planned, 3 day festival drew many dancers, choreographers and dance enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels to participate in classes, productions and networking opportunities within the community. It was my first time attending a production at the YMCA Boll Theater and ArtLab J’s studio, both in Detroit. There was a great diversity in the dance styles, choreography and music that evoked an emotional journey. Many choreographers incorporated different mediums and various props to deliver their messages, some of which left me pondering the meaning well after the dance had ended. I found myself reflecting on each piece and contemplating…what was the relevancy of the props? What was the meaning behind the showcased choreography piece? What, if anything, did the choreographer want to convey with the movement? Some pieces were more straightforward than others; a few left me wanting to seek out the choreographer to ask questions. I especially enjoyed the art of the storytelling and the depth of the reflection; how a clever choreographer was able to bring together the skill and emotional execution of their dancer with the selected musical composition and the use of props that would leave me reflecting upon what had been seen, rather than forgetting the dance as soon as it was over. Too often, I see this beautiful art of storytelling being lost by choreographers trying to fit in as many tricks and gymnastic maneuvers as possible. The art of expression, the simplicity of movement, the ability of a dancer to convey a story through every gesture is at times being lost or overshadowed by moves that don’t necessarily fit. Not this weekend! So many performance pieces were beautifully choreographed and the skill set of dancers evident. The fact that both performance locations were small and quaint allowed you to feel more of a personal connection to each piece. The slightest movement, breath, facial expression and costume detail could be seen. Thank goodness for the many talented and technically trained dancers that appeared to be very confident in their performances; being in such close proximity to your audience might have left the less confident dancer feeling a little vulnerable. If the performers in this showcase were nervous at all, you would never have known. The weekend was brought to its finale with a display of various hip hop dance styles that led into a lively, hand clapping, hip hop jam that made you want to get up out of your seat and dance!

Joori and her team delivered in their goal of presenting a forum wherein the dance community had the opportunity to unite, and share knowledge and talents, thus adding to the resurrection and promotion of the arts in Detroit. The forum also brought forth good-hearted fun with after-parties that offered opportunities to connect with fellow dancers/dance lovers and inspirational classes that allowed participants to experience different styles from industry professionals. I left this weekend excited to take back new ideas to my studios. I am looking forward to next year’s Detroit Dance City Festival.

—————————————————————————————

——————————————————————————————

Friday August 23: YMCA Boll Theater 8pm Performance

ChelseaRadgensby Chelsea Radgens / Bio on DP writers page

The 8:00 YMCA Boll Theater show on Friday, August 23rd closed a successful first day of the first Detroit Dance City Festival, presented by artLab J. As the artLab J intern, I enjoyed the unique opportunity of stage-managing each show at the YMCA venue, thus experiencing each piece both from backstage and as an audience member during technical rehearsals.

The show kicked off with an upbeat and folk-inspired piece by the Renegade Dance Architects of Chicago. Pleasant to work with and to watch, Renegade set the mood of opening night right. The tone of the piece is uplifting, but depth is created through the use of a diverse group of dancers. The cast included clear differences in dance style as well as age, giving the work a heavily nostalgic overtone, which the clear choreography solidified. Besides being pleasant to watch, the dancing tells a story exploring themes such as letting go of the past, and the value in close relationships; it was clear that this company was more like a family than just a group of individual dancers. Between the relaxed costuming (the dancers wore casual sundresses), the simplicity of the dancing, and the amiable performance quality of the dancers, Renegade’s performance was easy on the eyes.

The second piece, a contemporary ballet duo, was quite a treat for ballet lovers, myself amongst them. Arch Contemporary Ballet Company, from New York, delivered a purposefully uneasy piece with gorgeous lines and modifications of classical movements. ‘Jamais Deux Sans Trois’ (Never two without three), utilizes partnering strength in a way that is not often seen with two women in pointe shoes, even in contemporary pieces. With modified fish dives in abundance, Kaitlyn Salisbury remained perfectly poised and embodied feminine strength as she effortlessly lifted and tossed her lithe partner (and the piece’s choreographer), Sheena Annalise. The work inspired a vintage feeling with its warm lighting and music-box music. However, the music was artfully chosen to make the audience uncomfortable with interludes of eerie dissonance. It also speaks volumes to the beauty of the piece that during the technical rehearsal, there were audible gasps from fellow performers.

The dark vibe served as a lovely transition to Oregon native and artLab member, Alexander Dones’ ‘play..’. As a gifted performer, Dones shined in his theatrical solo work done to an excerpt from Samuel Beckett’s “play”, the cast including Alan Rickman. Dones tells the story of the lasting affects of marital infidelity through subtle, though wholly expressive, movements to the fast-paced text. The choreography is not overdone, nor overdramatized, and utilizes occasional stillness in a way that eliminates the risk of unpleasant melodrama. By the end, Dones is left standing on a stool while the voices fade out. Suddenly, the lights cut and Dones disappears, with the stool tipped on its side in a pool of light.  The music swells, leaving the audience in a resonating afterglow of the tragedy that has just unfolded as the lights fade out.

Next and keeping with the textual theme, Laressa Batson took the stage with resounding internal confidence. Her work, ‘Can’t Stop Dreamin’, expresses her desire to be heard as she embraces her passion. There is often a fine line between loving yourself and becoming arrogant, though Batson never straddles this line. She is strong in her dancing and through her message, but made it clear to the audience that she does not want to preach at them. The lighting and the dancing is straightforward, matching with the words from the poem read live during the performance. Batson utilizes her space and levels well, incorporating a nice amount of drops and floor work. The work is danced only to the words of the poem, though Batson still managed to incorporate fluid musicality to match the rhythm of the words being spoken. ‘Can’t Stop Dreamin’ was also a nice, optimistic turn from the last few darker pieces.

The tone switched again for Marcus White’s ‘Waiting for GoDDot’. Performed to mechanical music, White deconstructs rigid gender roles while highlighting the struggle between sexuality, society, and spirituality. The piece obviously alludes to another Beckett play, the existentialist “Waiting for Godot” and the choreography evokes a similar explorative reaction while also reading like moving spoken word. White’s choreography is bold and it is quickly made clear that he is not afraid to push the audience out of its’ comfort zone to encourage contemplation. He is controlled, demonstrating a substantial amount of core strength, while also soft and fluid. At the end of the piece, White proceeds down a diagonal strip of light, making the religious connections obvious. Unlike the play, it seems that White’s wait does indeed reveal his Godot.

Artlab J closed out the show with the lovable and campy ‘In Between’. Using a cast of four dancers, themes of love overtook the stage, ending the show on a blissful note. The 15 minute long piece literally asks, “What is love?” and it is up to the audience to decide that for themselves. The piece is intentionally ridiculous, with the dancers switching partners, becoming jealous, and eventually ending up happy. Each dancer holds their own for the duration of work and also work exceedingly well in unison and in partnering. Each dancer brings their own personality and movement to the table, highlighting their own talents, as well as complimenting each other’s. Amber Golden is sweet and playful, while Chris Braz is fun-loving, though a steady partner. Alexander Dones again harnesses his undeniable charisma, while Rachael Ahn Harbert holds the audience in the palm of her hand. ‘In Between’ was the perfect close to a well-balanced bill, and a great end to the beginning of a great weekend.

—————————————————————————–

Saturday August 24 YMCA Boll Theater 6pm Performances

MarcusWhiteBy Marcus White / Bio on DP writers page

In the cool theater, we hear murmurs of the highly anticipated second night of performances at the YMCA Boll Theater. This review is based on the view of a dance practitioner and arts blogger upon initial encounter.  Title of work, choreographer’s name, and dancers name were not considered in the production of this review in order to maintain a certain level of integrity of the work.

Inovus/Joanna Olewicz/MI “Breaking light”

The work opens with group breath, which we never saw again throughout the work. The use of 9 Inch Nails “Slipping Away” added an edgy tone to the somewhat dark (literally) stage.  The costuming drew on a red color pallet and seemed to support this idea. We see relationships both as couples and in ensemble work. The second section of the work conjured ethereal or heavenly focus.  The movement for the company drew from various dance traditions most notably Paul Taylor though some sections looked under-rehearsed. Nevertheless, the theme of group versus individual was apparent.

Cathy Taister/MI “Coppelia Syndrome”

Unique costuming choices with a memorable mask, white dress, and pointe shoes showed the choreographers bold aesthetic choices.  Movement was sharp, static, and staccato almost reflecting mannequin or robotic gestures.  Ballet technique of the dancer took away from the work making it hard for viewer to digest seriously. The work seemed to create a dynamic or commentary about beauty versus the grotesque. The voiceover and music score created befuddlement for the audience as I looked at the questioning faces of the viewers with looks of puzzlement.  The dancer draws on various movement vocabularies including ballet, pedestrian gestures, and “the worm” to convey her message. The removal of the mask at the end only revealed another mask representing a continual cycle and retelling of this constant struggle.

 

The Umbrella Company Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The Umbrella Company Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

“The umbrella Co/Jessica Parks and Stephanie Booth/NY “Brooklyn Spoke”

Electronica music with cool lighting helped set the scene of this female duet.  The work was visceral and demonstrated the limits of human capabilities.  Lush continuous movement drew on modern and contemporary movements to create gestural fluidity.  Partnership used weight sharing which will need more rehearsal; however, body lines were clear with simple costuming that showed dancers bodies.

artLabJ Dance Company/ Joori Jung/ MI “Without You”

Two dancers with red LED lights within a plastic bag moving slowly in the space created a sense of amoeba for the audience. Ambient music supported this seemingly experimental work.  The interplay of lighting and darkness made audience want to anticipate and identify the dancers in space.  We see the dancers are then “birthed” into the space as they remove the plastic tarp and the lighting opens the space.  New light white colored LEDs connect the two dancers connoting conjoined twins or some other symbiotic relationship.  When the LED lights were removed and the bodies were “free”, the male dancer asserted his dominance (a recurring theme) and used his “red belt”, which served as additional tie between the two dancers. The performers/movement artists did a fine job of commanding the audience’s attention through their presentation and characterization.    The audience was engaged with audible “ooohs” during the piece’s “shocking” moments with an obvious play of humor and beauty.  From viewing the work it is clear that rehearsal changes the professionalism of the work: the performers were prepared, clarity of choreographic and performance ideas were apparent, and the development of movement motifs was manifested beautifully.

Renegade Dance Architects (of Chicago)/Tiffany Lawson/ IL “Tres Hombres”

Renegade Dance Architects. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Renegade Dance Architects. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Laundry baskets. Multi colored striped socks, plaid shirt and shorts.  Sophisticated play with music and use of “global music traditions” created a sense of versatility and choreographic diversity.  The three dancers perform with their back to the audience only to reveal humorous fake glasses and nose mask.  The use of books and fabric revealed a “geeky” motif that created an engaged and responsive audience. Smiling and characterization from the dancers advanced this “geek” motif as well as the gumby like movement, quirky music, and choreographic elements. Kudos to the choreographer.

—————————————————————————–

Saturday August 24 YMCA Boll Theater 6pm + artLab J 7:30pm Performances

PauletteBrockingtonby Paulette Brockington / Bio on DP writers page

Innovation versus Convention

Of the nine contemporary dance numbers I saw only four ventured away from highly percussive music although one of the remaining five did use the spoken word as its dominate score. All but one used silence for their transitional movement. So has that innovation become convention?

My evening began with “Breaking Light” performed by INOVUS (MI). I found their use of

INOVUS. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

INOVUS. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

breath rhythm at the onset quite dynamic. The dance had two sections – one to highly percussive music, the other to choral music. I did not find the music cohesive but did appreciate the movement quality demonstrated by the group. However, their second section relied highly on unison movement fell short of that mark. They supported each other well in partnering and as a group used the space well.

Cathy Taister (MI) followed with “Coppelia Syndrome.” Dressed in a white Romantic length gown with a white mask and pointe shoes Ms. Taister performed a parody on “Coppelia,” a comic ballet by Arthur Saint-Leon which premiered in 1870. Her movement, even with the comic theme, reminded me of Tom Cruise in “Eyes Wide Shut.”

The umbrella Co (NY) was third on the program performing “Brooklyn Spoke.” The duet were performed by technically proficient dancers who moved fluidly throughout the two-sectioned piece. They were the best dancers of the night.

ArtLabJ dances 'Without You'. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

ArtLabJ dances ‘Without You’. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

artLab J Dance Company performed “Without You.” This commentary on relationships matured from a cocooned, red-lit presence to birth, through adolescence into acceptance. It was at times humorous and ended up being the most thought-provoking piece of the night.

Renegade Dance Architects of Chicago (IL) closed The Boll concert with “Tres Hombres.” The trio attempting laundry chores were at times humorous to the Herbie Hancock version of “Watermelon Man.”

From Boll I raced over to artLab J for its 7:30 show to be greeted by a 4-flight walk up. (The space is not handicap accessible.) The performance space was long and narrow putting the audience in two long rows against the wall. The first piece “Gymnopedie” was a French Expression film featuring Satie’s music, silence, subtitles and movement projected on a white cloth in the center of the room. It was a Detroit production film by David Benoit-Mohan.

Kristi Faulkner Dance (MI) followed the film performing “Vested.” It heralded the first of a number of sound problems that cropped up during the concert. The trio of dancers fully used the space perhaps more than any other companies. If you were in the second row sight lines were surely affected because of the narrow, long performance area. But if a soloist went house right the duo was performing left.  The company’s choice of spoken word was at times replaced with percussive music. The soundtrack and the dancers spoke about body language with clear movements and attack.

Detroit Tap Repertory (MI) performed next presenting a colorful number that was well tapped but a bit stagnant without changes in formation. This number was a late addition.

Big Red Wall Dance Company (MI) was the fourth number on the program with “Behind Closed Doors.” The first section was filmed and projected on the back wall. The second section of the night featured the evening’s only stationary prop, a door.  Danced to a jazz score the dancers showed a nice sense of attack.

Next the Laura Armenta Dance Company (MI) performed “Summer Rituals.” This duo in red dresses moved with and without yellow scarves. The fabric could have been used more artfully. I found their movement on the elementary side but pleasant to watch.

ISISRAKS DANCE TROUPE (MI) performed “’RAK’N CHOUKRANE next.  This group of experienced and inexperienced dancers was colorful and stiff during the first section of this piece. Several seemed unsure was what they were doing. The second section offered more movement choices that put the group in a better light, was more rhythmic and utilized the space more fully.

The evening closed with Detroit Tap Repertory (MI) performing “Peanuts” to Schroeder’s piano solo. They were again colorful and moved through the space nicely showing more variety and aplomb than in the earlier number. It would have been nice to see the lines changes but all in all it was a good choice as the closer with its positive note.

In ending let me say that in the recent past, modern dance/contemporary dance, explored silence as a soundtrack. It now seems eons ago when the dancers at Judson Church and others of their ilk embraced the pedestrian to find their voice. Today I found echoes of that voice. It would be nice to see some patterns disappear that have become comfortable shoes. And I say shoes because they do make a statement from stilettos to sneakers sometimes with attitudes or without. Catherine de Medici wanted to make a statement during her wedding ceremony, being short in stature, so she commissioned her cobbler Stiletto to create shoes to make her look and move that way no one had in the past. Perhaps we might look at some shoes.

———————————————————————–

Saturday August 24, YMCA Boll Theater 8pm Performances 

ChelseaRadgensBy Chelsea Radgens / Bio on DP writers page

Though the bill included only three dance companies, the Saturday YMCA show at 8:00 was arguably host to some of the biggest names in the Detroit Dance City Festival, including Take Root and artLab J from Michigan, and Sidra Bell Dance New York. Each of the three pieces in the show felt refined and thoughtful, hopefully leaving the audience provoked and inspired.

The show opened with a 10-minute piece, ‘Transit’, from Take Root, co-founded by Thayer Jonutz and Ali Woener, both current professors of dance at Oakland University. ‘Transit’ has a cast of seven seasoned dancers, and incorporates a whole lot of paper. Throughout the piece, the dancers alternate between scrambling to pick up as much paper as possible, flinging it about the stage, or burying fellow dancers in it. The choreography is simple, though wise, and leaves much up to the audience’s imagination. The biggest question I found myself asking was: what does the paper represent? Does it symbolize greed? Is it money, love, experiences, blame, or something else entirely? Whatever it is intended to be, it is certainly is something to contemplate.

Aside from the meaning of the piece, the dancers of Take Root were all courteous and consistently professional. As seasoned dancers, the level of technique was as high as their performance quality. It was clear that the dancers all had different dance backgrounds (Woener was a Radio City Rockette, while dancer Meg Paul is heavily influenced by classical ballet…etc), though they danced well together. It was also very calming to watch Take Root, as they were unfailingly steady; you had to trust that each bit of partnering and each step would go smoothly. Overall, ‘Transit’ was a delight to watch.

New Yorker Sidra Bell’s company was up next. ‘Disembodiment I’ featured two dancers and explored gender performance, as well as the merits and struggles in androgyny. ‘Disembodiment I’ featured two male dancers, distinguished by drastically different costumes. Austin Diaz represented the masculine in a plain black wrestler-like unitard, while Jonathan Campbell took on the feminine in shorts and black corset. I interpreted the piece as two sides of the same coin. As in, the dancers were not two separate people or meant to embody “the girl” and “the boy” or anything, but as two parts of the same person, as two genders exist in all of us.

The lighting was stark and simple, and the choreography played with weight transfer in a way that reflected a balance struggle. Many times, the dancers would look like they would topple over until they pulled back at the last possible moment, demonstrating their immense strength and control. Footwork was complicated, while the arms were freer, creating a pleasantly different aesthetic than the other two works showcased that evening.

Soft-spoken and eloquent, Sidra Bell and her dancers were a joy to work with, and ‘Disembodiment I’ fit right in as a thought-provoking and technically beautiful work.

DDCFSidraBellSat8pm

Sidra Bell Dancers. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec.

Last, artLab J’s own ‘Dream City’ finished the show. As ‘Dream City’ has already been reviewed twice on dancepanorama, I will keep my review short. Artlab J dancers function so well, not only because of artistic director and founder Joori Jung’s gorgeous, and fantastically musical, choreography, but because they are a family. They are synchronized, they are conscientious, of the music as well as each other, and they are passionate. They are dedicated to their art, and they charm and move the audience in rare ways. Perhaps I am biased, but artLab J is truly something specia

Saturday night at the YMCA Boll Theater was another hit, and I was honored to be a part of it. Cheers, dance lovers!

————————————————————————————————

Saturday August 25 YMCA Boll Theater 8pm Performances

MarcusWhiteBy Marcus White / Bio on DP writers page

As the final audience members enter the room, one could feel the energy of anticipation for tonight’s performance.  Three professional companies share the bill in one of the Festival’s most anticipated performances Saturday August 24, 2013 (8pm). This review is based on the view of a dance practitioner and arts blogger upon initial encounter.  Title of work, choreographer’s name, and dancers name were not considered in the production of this review in order to maintain a certain level of integrity of the work.

Take Root/Thayer Jonutz & Ali Woerner/MI “Transit”

'Take Root'. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

‘Take Root’. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Distortion in music. Piles of debris in the form of paper (and lots of it).  Directors crafted a complex web of ideas in negotiating the space using the debris.  The paper helped create moments of clearing, erasure, adding and subtracting from the space.  There was sense of urgency created by the committed performance artists.  The work spoke about the creation of boundaries, ease of mobility, and complexities of motion.

Sidra Bell Dance New York/Sidra  Bell/NY “Disembodiment I”

Sidra Bell Dance NY / Photo Scott Lipiec

Sidra Bell Dance NY / Photo Scott Lipiec

Male dancer runs. Black shortard.  Spokes of jumping. Muscularity of the dancer heightens audience physical experience. Clarity and precision of line in space creates functionality and purpose. Repetition of vocals also supports this specificity. Introduction of second male dancer with black corset and brown shorts creates an energetic, elastic duo. Second dancer shares his non narrative solo work at the conclusion of duo with supple, succulent gestures created by choreographer. The dance maker’s play within and with the music shows  their sophisticated movement approach.  Presented in Detroit as a work-in-process,  the work is freshly packaged and nuanced.

artLabJ Dance Company/Joori Jung/ MI “Dream City”

Dancers start on ladder. All white. We hear birds chirping and water flowing. Two dancers lie on the floor while three dancers are placed on top of ladder: one being held like a baby. There was an obvious light cue missed as dancers began to perform in the dark taking away from the theatricality of the work.  We see moments of looking and searching. The sound score connoted an aboriginal feel. The ladder originally seemed melodramatic but later served the work’s theatricality and became a central physical and metaphorical component to the work.

Throughout work we see challenges and pitfalls of the cast as well as their successes , one of these moments in particular was a section reflecting one of Detroit’s trademark sounds: “Motown”.  The cast who transitioned to multicolored tutus and white showcased a brighter side of their journey. Our laughter, joy, and nostalgia, however is short lived as dancers create a sense of urgency and pacing, in their now all black garb.

Video projection of Detroit’s temporal history was the second literal attempt at capturing Detroit’s history and contribution.  Female solo provided an abstracted account of the “Dream City’s” (aka Detroit) struggle and the decline or rising. It is clear that the director/choreographer did her homework.

The work concludes with one male dancing in and with paint. This resonates with me personally as being symbolic of Detroit’s future as being gray matter. There is no clear resolution, no clear answer: only the memory of the past, existing of the present, and hope for the future.

———————————————————————-

Sunday August 25 YMCA Boll Theater 6pm Performances

MarcusWhiteBy Marcus White / Bio on DP writers page

After three days of classes, performances, and social events we arrive at the Festival’s last concert dance performance at the Boll Theater Sunday August 25, 2013 (6:30pm). This review is based on the view of a dance practitioner and arts blogger upon initial encounter.  Title of work, choreographer’s name, and dancers name were not considered in the production of this review in order to maintain a certain level of integrity of the work.

Erica Ricketts/IL “Wishing You Were Here, Sincerely, Infinity” (excerpt)

Glow in the dark, tie dye pajamas and smiling faces reflected silly, embarrassed, excited or joyous expressions.  The work starts with female dancer collapsing while one dancer shakes.  Convulsing, pulsating sensation was a regular occurrence throughout this tenderfooted work.   Experimental music used tempo alteration of pop music while female dancer mouths words.  Guided walking patterns and directions was a central theme to this work.

Inovus/Joanna Olewicz/MI “ Foot prints”

“Foot prints” a popular inspirational poem was a central theme to this trio.  Greenish blue top with yoga pants. Guided partnerships and weight sharing supported central theme and conjured moments of codependency.

Kristi Faulkner Dance/Kristi Faulkner/MI “Four Letter Word” (excerpt)

Kristi Faulker Dance. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Kristi Faulker Dance. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Pool of light down stage left solo work complemented by performer upstage right with similar pool of light singing Whitney Houston’s “ I Will Always Love You.” Remaining cast joins solo dancer: symbolic of long lost memory or passing thoughts of love and lost.  Dancers then begin parade of flower passing until all dancers kiss one male dancer who drops as the music starts.

Movement connoted sensuality and included moments of poking and rubbing.  The work explored complexities and journey of romantic and plutonic relationships.  Dancers costumes included a black and grey color pallet with the exception of female solo dancer. The second section seemed to have a narrative approach.  Same gender and mixed gendered partnering made me question the characterization of relationships and intent of choreographer. To be continued…

Detroit Tap Repertory/Robert L. Reed/MI “The Sheik”

Detroit Tap Repertory. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Detroit Tap Repertory. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

 

Classic smooth tap routine.  There were moments of sound imprecision and discord in synchronization with each other as well as the music.  Overall nice costume presentation and uniformed look.

—————————————————————————

Sunday August 25 artLab J 7:30pm Performances

PauletteBrockingtonBy Paulette Brockington / Bio on DP writers page

Impressions from the Avant-Garde

The concert in the long-limbed artLab J Dance Studio started some 25 minutes late with the French Impressionist styled film “Gymnopedie.” French Impressionist Cinema or so called narrative avant-garde is applied to a group of French films and filmmakers of the 1920s. This style relied on quick editing techniques and camerawork in order to relay the message of the film – in this case Detroiter David Benoit-Mohan’s statement on beauty. The music by Erik Satie was the soundtrack for one to three dancers moving or not moving as Mr. Benoit-Mohan used techniques such as superimpositions, filters, framing, slow motion, playing with focus to convey the emotions and mood of his narrative.

After the film Laressa L. Batson (MI) danced in silence then to poet T-Y in “Can’t Stop Dancing.” As he spoke she maneuvered around him keeping a great deal of the movement to the stage left side of the room. T-Y was a subdued speaker who needed to show a bit more conviction in his words.

Erica Ricketts & Tia Monet Greer. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

Erica Ricketts & Tia Monet Greer. Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

The next piece also started in silence. “Ask Me Later” was performed by Erica Ricketts and Tia Monet Greer (IL). The duo filled the space nicely accenting their movements periodically with a clap, slap or finger snap which continued in the second section when their music came in. It was short but sweet.

LaMarre and Dancers (MI) performed “Ambiguous Occasion” to a live (John) Cagesque music. As it’s title suggestions it lacked clearness but I did ultimately feel that the primitivism of the score and animal impressions of the dancers gave way in this duet to the demand for power and sublimation. Doris Humphrey* felt “all dances were too long.” Here I’d have to agree.

Lauren M-R Taylor (MI) followed with “A Woman’s Window.” The piece performed to a jazz score was augmented by the spoken word. Brent ‘Black’ Smith was a strong, clear-voiced speaker who delivered his words with belief. From the onset his presence was felt. However, he should have been placed more upstage of the opening soloist so she could be seen by those seated house left. The trio of female dancers showed skill at ethnic movement artfully done as non-traditional movement. As an interlude the speaker joined the dancers and after a brief sequence returned to speaking. The piece was the most cohesive of the night.

Choreographer Emily Durand (MI) presented “Twisted Nerve” on a quintet of dancers. The piece was dynamic, well danced, thought provoking and fully used the space as an environment. Of the 20 or so pieces I saw over the weekend this was the best. Kudos to Emily Durand.

* Doris Humphrey known in dance history as a prolific choreographer, creator of a physical language developed technical principles for dance and a system of ideas about choreography.

—————————————————————————–

 Sunday August 25 8pm YMCA Boll YMCA 8pm Performances

BrittanyMacIntyreBy Brittany MacIntyre

Brittany MacIntyre is a competitive dancer with a local dance studio. She has trained in the Cecchetti, Russian styles of classical ballet & pointe, and also studies tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop and modern dance. She has been dancing since she was 3 years old and is now teaching dance to children of all ages. Brittany is an honor roll student and hopes to pursue a career in medicine and dance.

On August 25, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending the Detroit Dance City Festival. After a long weekend of classes and inspiring performances, it all ended with hip hop performances and a jam. Some hip hop dancers had kept a similar flow throughout their piece, while others included a variety of styles. You could see twists on popular dance moves such as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and break dancing moves from the 80′s-90′s.  It enhanced the mood to see  a  DJ on stage with the dancers, spinning a collection of cool songs. Some performances based themes on popular tv shows or movies, such as Adventure Time and Transformers. Gestures to certain lyrics in the music were entertaining, showing a relationship between the song and the movement.  Many performers were gifted hip hop dancers but my favorite group was Cymatic Soles, from Michigan – Mike Manson and Ajay Delarosa. They were very entertaining and their style showed an array of talent and ability.

The night ended with an improv, hip-hop jam. Any of the dancers could groove their way into a circle, at any given time. Both dancers young and old participated and cheered each other on as they free styled.  Isolations were sharp, head spins were impressive and the audience clapped for the flips and tricks.

It was an energetic, entertaining and fun way to end the weekend. Joori and her team brought together many different people, styles, and creativity, all to share their love for dance, performing and expression. I had a blast this weekend and can’t wait for even more next year.