NEWSTEPS a choreographer’s series at Chen Dance Center

By Walter Rutledge

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The Chen Dance Center presented NEWSTEPS a choreographer’s series for three performances Thursday, May 8 through Saturday, May 10. Fives emerging choreographers were selected to present new works; each choreographer was given rehearsal space and feedback from the selection panel. The extremely audience friendly one-hour performance was presented in the center’s intimate theater; which provided an ideal environment for the budding dance makers to present their work.

Choreographer and performer Siobhan Lawless opened the evening with a solo De huecos(,) conexiones. Set to a soundtrack of subway sounds and Zoe Keating’s Legions Lawless the performer had a powerful command of the stage. She displayed an admirable ability to use contrasting small tight movement with expansive shapes. Throughout she kept the connection of core/center driven dancing, which gave the work an important sense of consistency.

Magic Distefano’s The Last Butterfly was a male duet performed by Magic and Pacho. The work began with an interesting theatrical element of the dancers appearing in sculptural shapes then reappearing in different shapes after quick blackouts. Distefano established a gestural language, which was initially communicated between the dancers. The gestures were repeated with subtle variations, producing a gentle almost spiritual dialog.

The dance was performed with a considerable amount of unison. He was able to transfer the gentleness established by the gesture into the movement, which at times became acrobatic. His use of the floor was extensive, and is best described as “reverent”. The roll, slides and falls were always “one with the surface” retaining the work’s Zen quality.

Womanimal by choreographer and performer Caitlyn Johansen had an intentional disturbing quality. At times the movement mimed someone putting on make-up in a mirror (the audience was the mirror she was staring into) and she would unexpectedly freeze. These suspensions gave the work a disjointed feeling like someone in a mind-altered state.

Mishi Castroverde’s duet H(a)unted broke the evening’s theme of beginning a dance in a center down spot of light.  The duet started with Cody Potter downstage left and Pheobe Rose Sandford stacking him upstage right. The strong use of diagonal with Sandford moving downstage reinforced her role as the aggressor. Andre Danek’s original music composition aided Castroverde in creating an encounter where Sanford physically manipulated her male partner Potter.

Boundless by Sheena Annalise closed the program with a female quartet performed en pointe.  The dance successfully used unconventional lifts and partnering to create an almost Amazonian environment. Dancers Cassandra Glaser, Adrienne Riter, Jaclyn Wheatley joined Annalise in this strong statement of empowerment.

The NEWSTEPS series offers a much-needed opportunity for choreographers to develop their craft. Unlike single performance showcases this series provided the dancers and choreographers time for their efforts to maturate through multiple showings. The series is bi-annual with the next auditions scheduled for October. For more information about the next NEWSTEPS series or other events offered at the Chen Dance Center visit chendancecenter.org.

In Photo: Magic Distefano

Photo courtesy Chen Dance Center

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