Review: MOMIX Botanica / June 21 / Ann Arbor

By Christina Sears-Etter, MFA. All rights reserved.
June 26, 2014, Ann Arbor MI, USA

On Saturday June 21st I attended Momix’s Concert Work “Botanica” with
hundreds of other audience members at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Annual
Season. I had attended Momix’s Concert once before, close to the time of its founding,
and was familiar with their style which I thought ( at the time,) was overly gimmick-based
and commercial. However, times have changed, as have I, and Momix has
continued to evolve. And Moses Pendelton’s company has withstood the test of time,
achieving 7 major shows, an international presence, and critical acclaim. The company
is a major source of employment for today’s contemporary movement performer.
Rivaled by, and compared to, Cirque du Soleil, and Pilobolus, the company in which
Artistic Director Moses Pendelton was a founding member, Momix remains a major
creative force in the American Dance Scene. Yet, none of the dancer-illusionist
performers are mentioned by name either on the program, or on the company’s website.
Who are these unknown artists who make the vision of these shows a reality? I got the
opportunity to speak with three of these artists and clarify the creative process of
Botanica, and was able to ask some questions about how the company operates. These
insights can be shared in a future post.
Without a doubt, Momix has been able to flourish as a for-profit enterprise, touring Arts
Centers and University Campuses, and establishing relationships with corporations
such as Hanes, Target and other businesses. The opulent and stunning shows evoke a
range of positive responses from participants.
One audience member, a papa who runs a video and photo company which catering to
the performing arts, remarked while scooping up his four year old that Botanica is “a
feast for the eyes.”
With photographic projections of the natural world, stunning costume and props,
extremely skilled and athletic dancers, the event “Botanica” is indeed a stunner. momixbotanica4In this
post, I will write abut several of the most successful performance scenes. However, must mention that a few of the scenes felt overly long and simple in their illusions. For example the black-light and florescent “bugs”: a clever but overly extended celebration of black light and the abstraction of neon costume accents and visual-effect movement. At one point the dancers (how many? Who knows? No program accompanied Botanica!) made a smiley face and then a frown-y face with their body parts. This was early in the program, and presented a moment of potential discomfort for any audience older than pre-school age. But the scene passed, and the show evolved, and I’ve chosen to write about the most successful moments.
MOMIXbotanica1Orange puffball blossoms (Dahlias? Giant marigolds?) rotate and flirt agains a green leafy projection on the cyclorama. The dancers begin on the floor, a colorful fantasia in their stylized stillness and perfect illusion. This opening image invites the audience into a fantastical journey. There are parallels to vaudeville here, but the company operates within a strong artistic vision, and every aspect of the dancers’ performance is perfect. Mr. Pendelton’s impact on Pilobolus is clear in several of these theatrical scenes. This
barrage of orange blossoms is broken up by a quintet of bees. Five men with abstracted
bee costumes enter facing front with a set of two rod props, each, quivering in the air at
a fast rate. The image of a swarm of bees is so convincing and enjoyable to watch. The
five men cavort, dip, spin and make petty plays for power in extremely short duets
employing contact and minute manipulations. The dancers’ display exemplary technique
in the material, which is tight, eccentric, and well, the bee’s knees! I’m not fond of bees
and this compelling little vignette made me a ready fan!
Again and again, Mr. Pendelton and his Company of Dance Artists treated us to
fantastical scenes, created with the highest level of theatricality. The image below
captures a scene of beautiful abstraction. One imagines the dancers to be sunflowers
on a hot summer afternoon. momixbotanica3There were over 20 dance theatre scenes in Botanica, and each stood alone, taking the audience on a wild ride. The extension of the body through use of costume, props, brilliant lighting and sound design, made Botanica a memorable and inspiring evening. The company is not performing again in North America for quite awhile, judging from the dancers’ comments and the website calendar.
I urge any dance aficionado and fan to be sure to catch Momix at their next theatre
engagement.

Review: What’s New / DDCdances / April 11 / Smith Theatre Farmington Hills

By Paulette Brockington

3 + 2 = DDC New Dances

DDCdances (Detroit Dance Collective), a stalwart in the metropolitan dance scene, begins its 35th year with an eye to community, relationships and an honest sense of being.

The April 11, 2014 concert at the Wallace Smith Theatre began and ended with premieres. “Gather Round,” choreographed by Corinne Imberski, provided a soothing sense of community. This rondo was a pleasant opener offering rich, folk sounds from Bela Bartok and clean lines reminiscent of Doris Humphrey’s ”Air on a G String.”  The movement’s recapitulation at the end offered the satisfaction of friendship.

HNM Dance joined DDCdances performing two works on the concert. “Miserere,” choreographed by David Earle, harkened back to the tableau. Tableau vivant, a term borrowed from the French language, means living picture. In “Miserere” the dancers move from scene to scene interacting in unison and canon making moments in time sculptures / living artwork. In this instance the dancers technique is not important. 19th century tableaux cleverly bypassed laws on public nudity by using still bodies to recreate classical sculptures. In “Miserere” the dancers are clothed but somehow feel bare to the audience. The work also made me feel that I was watching a community of cave dwellers living their lives, discovering, and sacrificing.

Sue Clayton and Amy Hutchinson in 'The Room'. Photo (c) John Sobczak

Sue Clayton and Amy Hutchinson in ‘The Room’. Photo (c) John Sobczak

An excerpt from “The Room,” was next in the line-up for DDCdances. Choreographed by Barbara Selinger in 2011, “The Room” looked at relationships before a barrier of a brick wall. When the wall opened and the quartet dealt with the solitary movements of each and the interaction of all. A foot on a chair, a shoulder to a knee helped portray their relationships.

HNM Dance performed “Bolero” before intermission. The music plugged into Gregorian chant, ethereal Celtic music, layered vocals drawing on aspects of global dance rhythms culminating in a mash up of Karl Jenkins voices and strains, Ravel’s “Bolero” and music by The Kinks. The movement’s thematic material was artfully manipulated through repetition. A large group, HNM Dance moved with emotion through the space affording solos and duos their space in which to shine, a compliment to Anh Nguyen, its choreographer and artistic director.

Amy Hutchinson, David Guzman and Elizabeth Schultz in 'Indivisible'. Photo (c) John Sobczak

Amy Hutchinson, David Guzman and Elizabeth Schultz in ‘Indivisible’. Photo (c) John Sobczak

DDCdances concluded the concert with the premiere of “Indivisible.” This work, choreographed by Barbara Selinger with Selinger’s videography and Bernadine Vida’s photography, explored images of the Heidelberg Project through movement, stillness and splashes of color. The Heidelberg Project is art, energy, and community. It’s an open-air art environment in the heart of an urban community on Detroit’s East Side. The videography may have been overbearing at times but its mission was felt.  Its most striking moment for me was recognizing the strong sense of the plight of the homeless in a riot of color evoking the memory of smells, frustration and just being. Because of that I’d say the “Indivisible” did just as the Project does. It used its lines, shapes, voices and stillness to provoke thought and discussion, inspire action and provide a sense of community. You can’t heal a community without the chord that seemed to run through each piece on the concert.

David Guzman in 'Indivisible'. Photo (c) John Sobczak

David Guzman in ‘Indivisible’. Photo (c) John Sobczak

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.

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

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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: 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

Interview with Keith Saunders, Ballet Master of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Keith Saunders

by Julie Gervais

Dancepanorama had the opportunity to talk with Keith Saunders, Dance Theatre of Harlem Ballet Master, in advance of the Company’s arrival in Detroit for performances at the Detroit Opera House Feb 1, 2, and 3.

 

DP: It was shortly after the company’s visit to Detroit in 2004 that Dance Theatre of Harlem went on hiatus, suspending operations of the professional performing company. When dancers get injured, and rehabilitate, and then return to work, it’s an exciting time but a dancer is also changed by that process. Does the company feel something like that?

KS: It’s an interesting analogy – yes – we are changed by that process; we are strengthened by that process. There’s a renewal. We feel very much alive and excited to return to the national and international landscape. And the new Dance Theatre of Harlem is not the company of 2004. Almost all of the dancers are new, of course because eight years is almost an entire generation in the life of a ballet company. And there are other differences: one of the biggest being that the size of the company has gone from 44 dancers to 18, now. These dancers have been hand-picked from our second company, the DTH Ensemble, which has been touring nationally since 2009 [and visited Detroit during that time]. Some dancers have also been brought into the company from our national auditions.

DP: How many of your current 18 dancers remain from the pre-hiatus days?

KS: There are a couple of dancers on the current roster who were with us before, including one of our leading dancers, Ashley Murphy, who was an apprentice with DTH in 2004.

Ashley Murphy. Photo (c) Rachel Neville.

And Taurean Green was with us in 2004. He danced with other companies in the intervening years and now he’s back with us.

DP: What changes in repertory have resulted from the decreased size of the Company?

KS: Our Artistic Director, Virginia Johnson, did a very smart thing. Over the last three years, as we worked toward the return of the Company, and we’ve known for a while now that we were planning to go with 18 dancers, Virginia instituted a choreographic development program that she called ‘Harlem DanceWorks 2.0’. She invited choreographers in to develop, working with dancers we hired, new works that would form part of the rep of the new company. We are bringing one of the ballets that came out of this project to Detroit. It’s called ‘Far But Close’. It’s a narrative ballet, a contemporary love story of two people who meet in Harlem. Some of the other ballets we’ll be performing in Detroit have been developed just this season – world premiere ballets specifically for the company, or company premieres. We will be performing Alvin Ailey’s ‘The Lark Ascending’ – the first time any company other than the Ailey company will perform it – and this is the first time it’s being performed on pointe. We’re bringing two Balanchine ballets, his masterwork Agon [which was in Dance Theatre’s rep prior to hiatus], plus a lesser-known work: Glinka Pas de Trois, which dates from the 1950s and is a small gem of a work. We’re also bringing a Donald Byrd ballet called ‘Contested Space’, which was made on our second company last season and has been brought forward. Obviously right now we won’t do Giselle, or Serenade, or Four Temperaments…some of those bigger ballets that were staples of the former company, the size difference means we’re unable to do those now. So what Virginia has done is to develop ballets for this company at this size. We do retain some ballets from our previous repertoire.

‘Return’

‘Return’, by Robert Garland is one of these that we’ll be bringing to Detroit. It’s very popular and set to songs by James Brown and Aretha Franklin.

We’ll also be bringing the world premiere that Robert choreographed for us for this season, called ‘Gloria’ – a full-company ballet set to Francis Poulenc’s Gloria.

‘Gloria’ Photo (c) Matthew Murphy.

It was the first ballet seen when the company returned to the stage in October. We’re also bring the Swan Lake Act 3 Pas de Deux. So it’s a carefully selected balance; there are two complete programs. There are original ballets made on these dancers, there is repertoire from the former company, and there are company premieres. This is the Dance Theatre of the 21st century. We’re interested in continuing to grow and develop our dancers of course, but also interested in exploring the idea of what ballet in the 21st century means.

DP: In a recent interview, Virginia Johnson discussed the ongoing disparity between the diversity in our population and the diversity represented in ballet companies. How does DTH’s original mission fit into the 21st century?

KS: It’s still a necessity for DTH to have this sensibility. We’ve been having the same conversation for as long as I’ve been involved in ballet. I don’t that anyone has ever had a satisfactory answer, but if you look at ballet companies across America, it’s not really that different from what it was years ago; it’s frankly not that diverse. Dance Theatre’s mission to continue to provide opportunities for black dancers remains unchanged, and remains relevant.

DP: The fact that we’re still having this conversation – is it good, in a way? In the sense that, if we’re talking about it, we’re acknowledging that there remains work to be done.

KS: I don’t want to say it’s exactly the same as years ago – there is some more diversity now, but change is slow. There are so many factors that go into it. So yes, perhaps the fact that we’re still talking about it is good, in that we need to continue to make people aware. Particularly people who serve on Boards of Directors and as Artistic Directors, it’s important that they know that there is still an issue of inclusion.

DP: Thank you so much for carving time out of a busy schedule, and we’re looking forward to seeing you next week!

KS: We’re looking forward to being there!

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne State Works with Wanjiru Kamuyu

By: Megan Drabant

Students of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance were very privileged to work with the amazingly talented Wanjiru Kamuyu through the opportunity of a Maggie Allesee Choreographic Residency

Wanjiru Kamuyu

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Kamuyu is a native of Kenya and a M.F. A. (dance choreography and performance) graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. As a performer, Kamuyu has toured both nationally and internationally with the world-renowned choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Urban Bush Women). As an original cast member, Kamuyu has performed in Julie Taymor’s Broadway musical, The Lion King in Paris, and following this she became an original cast member, serving as Resident Choreographer, Dance Captain and Swing of Bill T. Jones’ Tony Award winning Broadway musical FELA! at the Royal National Theatre, London.  Kamuyu just came off the road with FELA! (Dance Captain and Swing) in the show’s first European and US National Tours.

Along with being a talented dancer, teacher, and choreographer, Kamuyu is a beautiful person with a passion of sharing her love and wisdom of dance. During her residency at Wayne State, Kamuyu auditioned and re-staged an original piece on a cast of 12 dancers with 6 swings. This piece is titled when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? and is based around personal experiences of when one’s world falls apart and how one overcomes and stands on the other side victoriously. Though the piece was created from a personal experience of Kamuyu’s, each dancer involved in the piece brings their own personal story to the table in order to truly bring the dance to life.

The reason this residency was so different from any other experience at Wayne State was because to go to that life shattering place one must embrace a visual, verbal, and physical rehearsal process. Vulnerability was key through out the rehearsal process as to fully find the raw emotions that are necessary for the soul of the piece. Kamuyu always made the environment safe and guided the dancers through the process with a genuine caring nature. “I came into the process without any expectations. I trusted my instincts and went where they led me. I was very concerned with making sure the dancers were always safe emotionally and would not walk out of the room at any point in a fragile state that could be difficult to navigate through,” said Kamuyu.

As for the dancers, many felt that the entire experience of the residency helped them work towards the resolution of their life shattering experiences. Senior Katie Chartrand explained, “This experience forced me to tap into my vulnerability and allow myself to feel. Though it was a terrifying process, I found comfort in the trust of Wanjiru and my fellow dancers while taking the plunge into the unknown. I am very thankful to have met and worked with such an amazingly genuine human being and know that wherever she goes she will bring light to many lives.” The rehearsal process provided the opportunity for the dancers to find a safe place to explore their emotions. “Wanjiru’s piece forced me to become openly vulnerable and she allowed the space, in which we worked in, to be a sacred place with my peers. This was an unforgettable experience and I cherished every moment with her and the other dancers,” said junior James Vessell.

Photo (c) Scott Lipiec

when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? is an amazing piece that takes both the performers and the audience on an emotional journey that becomes personalized to each individual involved. In retrospection of the residency Kamuyu stated, “This was a very special residency because it afforded me the opportunity to bring back to life a work that is very close to my heart.  The dancers brought such great justice and integrity to the work.  I have full confidence in each and every one of the dancers to perform the work with grace and honesty.”

Come see when paradise shatters at it’s seams, then what? performed along with many other great works this weekend and next weekend at The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance December Departmental Concert. There will be four evening performances at 7:30pm (Friday, Nov. 30 and Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 6-8) and one matinee at 3pm (Sunday, Dec. 2). All performances are held in the Maggie Allesee Studio Theatre, Room 3317 on the third floor of the Old Main building, 4841 Cass Avenue in Detroit. Ticket prices are: $12 for adults; $6 for students (with ID) and seniors; and $15 at the door. Advance tickets may be purchased through the Theatre Box Office – 4743 Cass Ave at Hancock, open 2:00pm to 6:00pm Tuesday – Saturday, online at http://wsushows.com, or by calling 313-577-2972.

For more information please visit http://www.dance.wayne.edu/