Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Between the Seas' Korhan Basaran and Pedro Goucha Gomes: Of Angels and Demons

Pedro Goucha Gomes premieres Amongst Millions to American audiences.  Photo by Flavia Zaganelli. 

"Between the Seas," spotlighting performing artists from the Mediterranean, presents 15 shows spread over one sultry week. Founded by Atkina Stathaki, this festival unites a breadth of contemporary voices at The Wild Project. Tuesday's double-bill program showcased works by Turkish choreographer Korhan Basaran and Portuguese dancer and dance-maker Pedro Goucha Gomes.

Created for Mari Meade Collective and Project 44, d.r.t. or other possible titles! is a lamentation set to a pastiche of predictable classical music hit-makers like Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart. Four men sport white briefs and elfin angel wings, the bases smeared with fake blood, while the quartet of women wear diaphanous skirts, removed to reveal camisoles and shorts. These fervent dancers swell the postage-stamped stage with skittering runs, reverberating quivers, and daredevil leaps and plunges, characterized with stumbling, crumbling dynamic. In the best section, duos elastically catch and cast one another through space (sometimes vaulting off the stage walls and wings) while the balance forms shadowed tableaus in the background.

d.r.t. or other possible titles! interrupts its anguished sensibility with jarring tonal shifts. In one clunky satire, women preen and squabble as competitive ballerinas. The ending features Basaran thumping his way down the auditorium stairs into the stage. For prolonged minutes, he moans and convulses as #brokenangel, an avatar representing those lost to domestic violence. It's never clear how these incongruous scenarios relate to the original premise, and consultations to his multi-paragraphed program notes only reveal eccentric ramblings about the state of true art. More troubling, it feels insulting to the resilient female dancers — who only moments before were launching their male partners through the air — to represent them as flimsy caricatures and underscore their potential to be a statistic.

Employing a sparse vocabulary of a half-dozen paces and swiping, clawing gestures, Pedro Goucha Gomes — wiry, darkly handsome, and totally nude — performs his own work, Amongst Millions. Seemingly inspired by the slow-moving grotesqueries  of Butoh, he uses his rubber mask face to grimace, grin, gnash his teeth, and silently scream as an electronic soundtrack hisses.

The piece, a personal statement about the alienation and frustration left in the wake of Portugal's social and economic crises, registers on multiple levels. It works as a virtuosic solo demonstrating the power of a tightly edited and intensely executed lexicon. Amongst Millions also functions as criticism —through facial contortions that cycle from tortured to torturer and back again —of the Portuguese who manifested their troubles through the election of a corrupt and ineffectual government. Gomes' embodied commitment chills with its haunting brutality.

This reviews to the performance seen on July 23. 

It Happened Last Week — The Bessie Award Nominees Announced

Darrell Jones, Bessie Juried Winner
Excitement buzzes feverishly as Sammi Roxy Lim and I approach Studio 5-2 at the Gina Gibney Dance Center. With the sweat of a thousand rehearsals lingering in the air, we hear well-dressed movers and shakers of the dance community speculate on the soon-to-be-announced nominees of the annual New York Dance and Performance Awards, universally referred to as the Bessies after beloved mentor Bessie Schonberg

The Bessies — dance's answer to The Tony's — publicly commemorates performers, choreographers, visual designers, and large and small scale productions for exceptional work. It's an honor to be nominates, but more importantly....

For more, please visit The Dance Enthusiast

Friday, July 5, 2013

Overground Physical Theatre's X-Stream

Overground Physical Theatre’s X-Stream. Photo by Kalin Ivanov.
Imagined during and after the emotional and physical deprivation generated by Hurricane Sandy, Overground Physical Theatre Company's new 90-minute piece, X-Stream, explores the loss and eventual restoration of the senses. Water, as a tool for both destruction and rejuvenation, acts as a persistent theme. A lush video crafted by Ana Atanassova-Ivanova, Kalin Ivanov, and Mihail Vaklinov plays continually, depicting aquatic imagery such as a beach, a rainstorm, and a reservoir.

X-stream opens with a lingering shot of a tranquil seashore before choreographer and gifted performer Antonia Katrandjieva darts onto the video-screen. Breaking the fourth wall.... 

To read the rest, please visit The Dance Enthusiast.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Three Female Dancers You Must Absolutely See: Julia Burrer, Hee Seo, and Samantha Speis

Cleaving the dancer from the dance is complicated. Vessels for the choreographer’s intention, performers are selected for their capacity to manifest— and occasionally elevate—the piece’s physical and emotive content.  Good dancers bring technical proficiency and copious performative chops to the table. While not quite a dime a dozen, dancers who survive the rigorous training necessary to function in a professional capacity usually exhibit these assets in spades. 

Great dancers are an entirely different species. Their basic presence can alter the choreographer’s vision to the extent that the piece’s form and style scarcely register. A great dancer imprints the “how” not the “what” onto a performance. Correspondingly, a great dancer can transform choreography from middling to transcendent. The collaboration between a great dancer and a talented choreographer may blaze into history with pivotal works that affect generations to come. What would Balanchine’s legacy be without his succession of muses from Maria Tallchief to Suzanne Farrell?

The choreographer as charismatic messiah, one who hypnotizes performers and audiences alike with his or her ingenuity, has dampened our need for great dancers. Current performers are the disciples of a visionary’s message. Yet, whether needed or not, great dancers burst onto the scene like possessed supernovas, devouring their way through pieces, atavistically eager to perform. To witness a great dancer is to fully experience the revolutionary power of movement.

Over the past year, three female dancers have stunned me with performances that collided in the rarefied intersection of skill, expression, and an elusive, chimerical quality that lingers long after the curtain has closed. 

Julia Burrer

Photo by Angel Franco.
With her hank of chestnut hair and rangy, rubber-doll frame, Burrer is unmistakable onstage. She doesn’t look like a dancer, doesn’t really move like a dancer, and yet, she seems perfectly at ease dancing. Burrer is competent enough; she minds her technical manners by pointing toes, hitting marks, and exhibiting full, embodied movement. Technique seems like basic hygiene to her, necessary but not notable: Virtuosity is a waste of stage space.

What grounds her dancing is a serene aplomb. As if suspending each movement in a pickling jar, she imbues motions with cool relaxation and shaggy poise. Her shambling artlessness only enhances this cerebral confidence. The parts of Burrer don’t make sense, but the totality of her is incandescent.

This review was based on Burrer’s performances in Doug Varone’s Boats Leaving and Rise and Gwen Welliver’s Of Beasts and Plots.

Hee Seo

With ABT principal dancer Alexandre Hammoudi. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor. 

Ballet has always had its stars. The style lends itself to pyrotechnic displays of technical prowess, dramatic roles that allow for extravagant emotion, and greater visibility from the world at large, which allows critics and fans to anoint their favorites. Seo, only a year in as a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, looks as if she was cast from a mold labeled “Perfect Ballerina.” Lithe, long-limbed, and possessing a girlish beauty, she couples sparkling facility with generous and spirited warmth.

Her dancing is sometimes so lovely it hurts to watch. An open book with a demonstrative hunger to learn, Seo grows exponentially with each role.  It’s a rare thing to see a ballerina so excited. Years of regular and demanding sacrifice take its toll; ballet dancers focus so completely on subverting their physical structures that emotional substance becomes no more than a dutiful veneer to be panderingly adopted during performances. Not Seo. She's all heart, framed by the sharp contours of strong technique.

This review was based Seo’s performances in “Pas de Trois” of Swan Lake, Antony Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading, and Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet.

Samantha Speis


Photo by Ian Douglas.

Speis—powerfully formed with a savage capacity to pitch her body through space like a cannonball—has an exaggerated expressive ability that would seem histrionic in any other dancer’s hands. Fearless and seemingly oblivious of the physical limits that govern the human body, she performs as if in a delirious trance.  Tasks—like repeatedly and brutally flinging herself to the floor or intoning a heightened, keening wail—that even the fittest and most committed performer would shy away from, Speis performs with raw ardor.

She doesn’t do this to impress, she does it to make us feel.  With its ragged edges and dark exuberance, her feral dancing shocks. Speis forces you to examine our standards of safety and sanity in the interest of getting us into the bowels of a piece.

This review was based on Speis’ work in her self-choreographed The Way It Was, and Now (First Rendition) and Marjani Forte’s being Here…..