11/8/19 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Ballet Eloelle- Teaching Diversity With Laughter

By Walter Rutledge

The Leslie-Lohman Museum For Gay and Lesbian Art Gala took place on October 22 at one of the first venues for modern dance the Judson Theater. The celebration/ raised funds and awareness to the many projects and exhibitions directly effecting the LGTBQ community. One of the true highlights of this festival fundraising evening was the internationally acclaimed dance company Ballet Eloelle.

A five-member ensemble from the all- male comedy ballet company entertained and enlightened the audience; sharing the message of diversity and tolerance through humor. The company is one of only a handful of professional “gender bending” dance companies in the world (Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo being the most recognizable). Founded and directed by Victor Trevino the New York City based Ballet Eloelle has an extensive internationally touring portfolio, delighting audiences and receiving rave reviews throughout Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and the United States. 

The dancers are a collective of veteran comic male ballerinas and new faces from around the globe; a hallmark of this very special band of globetrotting troubadours. The Dying Swan performed by Nina Minimaximova (aka Trevino) with brilliant self- effacing comedic timing that brought the house down!  

Ballet Eloelle- Harliquenade Pas de Deux

Another standout was principal dancer Marianel Moarorles (aka Walter Battistini). The diminutive powerhouse performed Harliquinade Pas de deux with male lead Tetsushi Segawa. Battisini’s strong fleet-footed allegro perfectly balanced his comedic and oft-times coquettish partnering style; making the duet and variations one of the evening’s high points.

 
Ballet Eloelle- Pas de Quatre

Battisini was also featured in Pas de Quatre, a spoof on the renowned divertissement choreographed by Jules Perrot in 1845. Dancing as famed nineteen century ballerina Franni Cerrito, he was joined onstage with three other divas: Tamara Verde (Roberto Forleo) as Marie Taglioni, Palomina Carrera (Jonathan Mendez) as Carlotta Grisi, and Teresa Carino (Estefano Gil) as Lucille Grahn. Together this fearsome foursome was electric as they parodied this Romantic ballet classic.  

Ballet Eloelle brought the right amount of humor, satire and solid dance technique to the Leslie-Lohman Museum Gala. The troupe definitely are dancing ambassadors helping all of us leap in to a more tolerate and inclusive world. And they are doing it with laughter- one bourree at a time.   

11/3/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Alex Clayton and Devon Louis

By Walter Rutledge 

The Paul Taylor Dance Company has gone through a major transition. Over the last two years the company has seen many Taylor dancers retire, the acquisition of eight new dancers and a new artistic director. New works by the next wave of modern dance makers have become an exciting addition the predominately Taylor based repertoire. O&A NYC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Walter Rutledge sat down with Alex Clayton and Devon Louis two new members of the Taylor company. 

A Conversation With Alex Clayton and Devon Louis

Clayton joined the company in the summer of 2017 and made his New York City debut during the 2018 season. A self- described high energy mover he has also served as rehearsal assistant for Lila York’s 2016 Continuum for the Taylor Company Commissions. Louis makes his New York City debut with the Taylor company this season; October 29 through November 17. In our conversation we discuss how they are acclimating to the technique, the repertoire and all things Taylor.

10/28/19 O&A NYC DANCE: A Conversation With Michelle Fleet

By Walter Rutledge

Michelle Fleet has been affiliated with the Taylor organization since 1999. During her twenty-year association she has been a member of Taylor 2 (1999- 2002) and a seventeen-year member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company. The Bronx native talked with Out and About NYC Magazine Editor-in Chief Walter Rutledge about her career, favorite roles, and future ambitions prior to her final season (October 29 through November 17 at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater) as a member of the Taylor company. Continue reading

10/27/19 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: A.I.M (Abraham In Motion) At The Joyce

By Walter Rutledge 

A.I.M. (Abraham In Motion) presented their New York City season at the Joyce Theater Tuesday, October 15 through Sunday, October 20, 2019. The six- day, seven performance season offered five works, including three world premieres and one company premieres, by three choreographers. The concise, focused and extremely audience friendly program was a successful blend of both visceral and cerebral movement and imagery.

In Big Rings (2019 World Premiere) choreographer and company member Keerati Jinakunwiphat presented a cleanly crafted ensemble work for six dancers.  Jinakunwiphat clearly understands the craft of choreography, approaching this work with strong compositional form and design. Extremely fluent in “Abraham”; she proficiently worked in Abraham’s vernacular and canon. The use of music from different genres and the well employed choreographic device of theme and development kept the work fast past and well defined. This was especially evident in the second movement of the work where she brought freshness to Camille Saint-Saens “chestnut” The Swan.

Show Pony (2018) presented performer Marcella Lewis and choreographer Abraham in a very favorable light. In true Abraham style the choreographer established a finite movement vocabulary; which he manipulated, variated and developed throughout. Shifting between pure and gesture driven movement (with a pleasant dash of personality) Abraham created a work that was dynamic, original and fun.   

Clad in a metallic gold unitard Lewis danced with unmitigated aplomb; commanding the stage and at times relegated the audience to unwitting voyeurism.  If the arms are the language of the dance, Abraham allowed her to speak in a clear choreographic voice. She gave new meaning to the phrase “the hostess with the mostest”; when retreating to a pool of clear light she smiled while offering salutations and greetings to the audience. 

Trisha Brown’s Solo Olos (1976 company premiere) epitomizes the phase God mic. The work for five dancers and initially performed in silence took an unexpected twist when dancer Donovan Reed jumped off the stage and sat on the first row with a wireless microphone. The almost Deis Machine devise became an omnipresent dictate guiding the dancers through the movement, which consisted of reversing many of the movement passages. This thinking man’s (excuse me- thinking person’s) abstract ballet lived up to it’s title. 

Cocoon (2019 World Premiere), a solo choreographed and performed by Kyle Abraham, opened with a chorus of singers placed in the audience in front of the stage. Performing music by Bjork (arranged by lead singer Nicholas Ryan Gant) the nine- member chorus accompanied Abraham; who began in a crouched position on the floor in a circle of Azurite blue light. As if on a slow- moving carousel Abraham unfolded his body shifting position as Dan Scully’s light design expanded to eventually encompass the entire stage.

The choreography shifted between explosive passages to exploring the plastique of movement through sustained stillness. Abraham removed the sash that sequestered his shirt, and an offstage gust of wind surrounded him. Symbolically his motionless form was being propelled to a new metaphysical plain- a metamorphosis.  

The evening concluded with Studies On A Farewell (2019 world premiere) an episodic ensemble work for eight dancers and choreographed by Abraham in collaboration with A.I.M. Set to Four Studies by Nico Muhly and performed live by Katherine Liccardo and Chelsea Starbuck Smith in tandem with a recorded track. The work depicted a series of encounters and partings tinged with a collective personal, almost autobiographic feeling. Jinakunwiphat slowly walking backward alone retreating upstage into the darkness culminating theballet and the evening.

Abraham continues to share his unique gift of abstract storytelling. The sophisticated and aesthetically satisfying A.I.M. New York season combined solid choreography with high production value.

In Photo:  2) Tamisha Guy, Marcella Lewis, Javon Jones, and Catherine Ellis Kirk  3) Marcella Lewis  4) Catherine Ellis Kirk 5) Kyle Abraham  6) Tamisha Guy and Javon Jones

Photo by: 1) Tatiana Wills 2) Sharen Bradford 3) Christopher Duggan 4, 5 & 6) Stephen Schreiber 

9/22/19 O&A NYC DANCE- REVIEW: Legacy- Creative Outlet and Deeply Rooted at BAM Fisher

By Walter Rutledge

Legacy, a shared concert between Brooklyn based Jamel Gaine’s Creative Outlet and Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, presented a well curated evening of dance theatre works at BAM Fisher on Friday and Saturday September 13 and 14, 2019. Founding directors Jamel Gaines and Deeply Rooted’s Kevin Jeff (both Queens natives and Bernice Johnson Dance School alums) presented a concert of shared dance philosophies. The evening had a kindred aesthetic; presenting seven works spanning thirty-five years. Continue reading

5/11/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: The Dallas Black Dance Theater In The Spirit Of Now

By Walter Rutledge

The Dallas Black Dance Theater (DBDT) presented their all too short New York season, “Spirit Of Now” at the Ailey Citigroup Theater on Thursday, May 2 and Friday, May 3. The two-day two performance series marked the sixth season at the venue and the first season for the recently appointed Artistic Director Melissa M. Young. Her twenty-five-year association with DBDT (eleven years as a performing and fourteen administrative/artistic) gives Young a unique understanding of the company ethos. A teary eyed Young promised the audience the company would, “Move your spirit”.  Continue reading

4/19/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: NewSteps: a choreographers series

By Walter Rutledge

NewSteps: a choreographers series presented their 25th year of offering new and emerging dancemakers an opportunity to develop dances through the creative process. The bi-annual choreographic showcase offers five to six artists a small stipend, rehearsal space, mentoring and constructive feedback. The process culminates with three performances open to the public. Each choreographer is given a maximum of ten minutes of presentation time. This season NewSteps featured emerging choreographers Mat Elder, Annie Heath, Erin Byrce Holmes, Tanner Ryan, and Spencer Weidie. Continue reading

4/12/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Annie Heath- NewSteps (Spring 2019)

Spring 2019 newsteps: a choreographers Series  began its Spring 2019 showcase on Thursday April 11. The performances continues tonight and Saturday 13, 7:30pm at the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry St, 2nd floor in New York City’s historic Chinatown district. Five choreographers Annie Heath, Mat Elder, Erin Bryce Holmes, Tanner Ryan and Spencer Weidie will premiere original works and works in progress. Let’s meet NewSteps choreographer Erin Bryce Holmes.  Continue reading

4/9/19 O&A NYC DANCE: Christopher Charles McDaniel- A True “DTH Baby”

By Walter Rutledge

Christopher Charles McDaniel is a true “DTH Baby”. When the East Harlem native attended a Dance Theatre of Harlem lecture demonstration at his school the outgoing eight year old was instantly smitten. He was so enamored by the company and its charismatic director Arthur Mitchell that McDaniel decided he wanted to dance, and he wanted to dance at Dance Theatre of Harlem.   Continue reading

4/7/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: Venezuela- Batsheva Dance Company

By Walter Rutledge

The Batsheva Dance Company presented the New York premiere of Venezuela by house choreographer Ohad Naharin on March 27 through March 30 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gillman Opera House. The program notes described the work as, “exploring the dialogue and conflict between movement and the content it represents”. As the work began the most compelling observation became that Venezuela is an experiment in perception.

The curtain rose without the usual dramatic fanfare of dimming the lights to darkness. This action caught the audience off guard silencing them with a heightened sense of curiosity. Eight dancers were standing downstage center and began a slow migration to center stage as the house lights slowly dimmed. The soft and soothing music for the entire first act of Maxim Waratt soundtrack consisted of a series Gregorian chants; and the combination of music and the upstage movement progression created an aura of mystery.

Naharin immediately establishes the work’s most notable elements; that of slow, sustained and repetitive movement phrases. Employing these choreographic devises allows the audience to absorb the movement and intent, and to remember and eventually recall the stunning visual imagery. A factor that will become important for interpreting the second act of Venezuela.

The upstage progression is interrupted by a solo female dancer extending an arm. The gesture,  with an upwardly extended arm, flexed wrist and stylized fingers, conjured Latin social dancing. A male dance extends his arm in a lower second position as if in response to the initial gesture. Soon all the dancers are engaged in a Naharin style Latin ballroom dance. The choreography seemed to work in an odd sort of tandem with the music, but it clearly established a dynamic counterpoint.

Good choreography goes beyond the steps and music, it establishes its own timing to create a visual music. Throughout the first act Naharin capitalized on this fact delivering cohesive sections of both visual and audio contrast. This was most evident in the section where the dancers rapped the lyrics from Dead Wrong, a rap song by Biggie Smalls aka the Notorious B.I.G. featuring additional rap lyrics from Eminem. Set against the Gregorian chant the effect was almost as shocking as finding a lifted toilet bowl seat in a nunnery.

As the lights rose again on the second act the dancers again moved to center stage restarting the work from the beginning.  The chant had been replaced by an eclectic score that kept the “Latin section” exciting- just more traditional. The same happened with the Biggie Small section with the rap set back to the original Al Green baseline sample; just as edgy but more contextually conventional.

Naharin masterfully variated and developed themes with nuanced discipline; which allowed changes in the environment (music, lighting, props and cast) to alter the visual perception of the choreography. In one such moment the dancers entered with rectangular shaped fabric. In the first section oatmeal colored rectangles slapped the floor as a solo dancer, crawled prostrate on the floor, seemingly tried to avoid the blows. The imagery creating a sense of penance. In the second rendition the rectangles were painted to represent national flags including the Palestinian, Brazilian and the Black Power (USA) flag. This time the “fabric flogging” took on social and politic overtones.

In another section five men walked on all fours with a woman straddling their backs. The long-sustained section created a mood of female dominance. In contrast, the imagery in the second act rendering set to Middle eastern inspired music transformed the section into a caravan.

The use of repetitive and sustained movement allowed the audience to retain the shapes and phrases. This made the second rendition an experiment in visual perception, instead of just a movement addendum. The strong musicality, which was so independent and prominent in the first act, was perfectly married to the music the proceeding act; leading us to surmise that Naharin probably choreographed the second rendering first.   

A yell from company member  Bobby Jene Smith signals the end of both acts. Maybe it was a metaphor, not signaling the end but announcing a new beginning. Ohad Naharin’s Venezuela makes a powerful artistic statement allowing us to see his world from two points of view. Both valid and both compelling.