1/13/16 O&A NYC REVIEW: Daniil Simkin’s Intensio

By Walter Rutledge

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Daniil Simkin’s Intensio had their inaugural New York City season January 5 through January 10 at the Joyce Theater. Simkin presented a stylistically diverse audience friendly program, featuring four works by four internationally recognized choreographers. The company of nine highly trained professionals performed with impressive technical prowess that was only surpassed by the high level of artistry.

The program opened with Jorma Elo’s trio Nocturne/Etude/Prelude featuring Danili Simkin, Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside; with live piano accompaniment by David Friend. Boylston danced with exceptional assuredness, combining quirky circular arm movements with impeccable line and a crystalline attack. The work faired better when the choreography broke from the classical/ballet conventions of arabesque, attitude and pirouette and allowed the performers to just dance. Elo captured the mood and temperament of each section and the clean bright lighting complimented the choreography and the performers.

Welcome A Stranger by Gregory Dolbashian set to a music collage (including mixes by Dolbashian) presented a quintet featuring Celine Cassone, Blaine Hoven, Alexandre Hammond, Calvin Royal III, and Cassandra Trenary. The dark and introspective contemporary ballet was the only work set off pointe, which gave the dancers an opportunity to work through a more grounded center of gravity. Designed in three sections, the work was an excellent vehicle for guest artist Celine Cassone; whose fiery red hair matched her onstage temperament.

Simkin and the City, an amusing short film by Alexander Ekman, had Simkin dancing through Manhattan en route to the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center. Dressed in princely attire consisting white tights, ballet slippers and a white jeweled tunic; the farce drew laughter from the audience as Simkin entertained passers-by and a barking dog (it’s amazing how much New Yorkers and their pets take for granted). He finally arrives at the Met only to find the front doors locked.

"Simkin and the Stage"  /Alexander Ekman / Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO

The second part Simkin and the Stage featured home movie footage of a young Simkin (starting at age nine) receiving dance class from his mother in their apartment. The serious, almost stoic child with the page-boy haircut looked more duty-bound than joyous. The adult Simkin danced onstage to a combination of music and a recorded narrative of his own voice. Throughout the work Simkin’s narration directed his dancing autobiography ranging from comedic to poignant.

The final work Island Of Memories by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa began with Simkin lying on the stage while an ocean of whirling light slowly rolled across the stage like an ebbing high tide. Lighting designer Dmitrij Simkin (Daniil’s father) using infrared sensors to track the heat of the dancer’s footwork illuminating the performers’ path with every step. Set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons the full ensemble work lived up to Daniil Simkin’s objective of marrying dance and technology.

The simple, but effective stage set consisting of rectangular mirrors suspended above the stage provided another visual perspective to the work; creating the illusion of viewing the dance from the orchestra and balcony simultaneously. The duel perspective revealed the choreographer’s visual intent and the pattern work/stagecraft from above. American Ballet Theatre dancer Hee Seo performed with notable abandon especially in the duet with fellow ABT member Calvin Royal III.

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Daniil Simkin’s Intensio bridges the artistic gap between traditional and contemporary ballet; and the company accomplishes this goal without sacrificing artistic integrity. The company made its first leap into the New York City dance arena offering good form and a lot of fun. Simkin embraces the idea that dance, especially ballet, can be innovative and entertaining. 

1) Isabella Boylston and Alexandre Hammoudi – Image by Paula Lobo

2) Daniil Simkin – Image by Yi-Chun Wu

3) Céline Cassone and Calvin Royal III – Image by Paula Lobo

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7/28/15 O&A REVIEW: The 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival

By Walter Rutledge

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The Fire Island Dance Festival 2015 took place July 17- 19 in Fire Island Pines. The three-day dance event has become Fire Island’s premiere summer dance showcase; spotlighting the talents of new, emerging and established choreographers, dancers and dance companies. This year the festival presented ten works by nine choreographers, and featuring forty-three performing artists.

Due to the high level of artistry and the picturesque setting (overlooking the bay) the entertainment element is the festival’s focal point; but the purpose and mission should always be reinforced and reiterated at every opportunity. The Fire Island Dance Festival is the successful result of two communities that have been greatly impacted by HIV/AIDS coming together to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. Dancer Responding To AIDS (DRA) was founded in 1991 during the bleakest days for the AIDS pandemic.

The Fire Island Dance Festival achieves its goal through the very essence of the art form- by sharing. The response and generosity of the dance and Fire Island communities has allowed DRA to surpass the previous year’s financial accomplishments. This year the festival raised $544,555 that will assist in their year round support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Due to the freelance nature of the “no business like show business”, many artists living with HIV/AIDS lack adequate health services, emergency financial assistance and contingency funds, lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals, and vital support systems. Through various programs including The Actors Fund, the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers’ Resource, artists and the community at large receive assistance.

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Festival host Desmond Richardson is quickly becoming dance’s eloquent elder statesmen. Richardson (who participated in the very first festival) is also co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and along with Artistic Director Dwight Rhoden remain a staple throughout the festival’s 21-year history. This year Rhoden offered a solo set two Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and performed by his present muse Clifford Williams. Williams gave an articulate and impassioned performance.

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The ten works ranged from lighthearted dance theatre to ballet bravura, which epitomized the range, scope and inclusiveness of the event and the mission. Choreographers: Joshua Beamish, Al Blackstone, Pontus Lidberg, Duncan Lyle, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Stephen Petronio, Jules Perrot, Dwight Rhoden, Manuel Vignoulle, and Charlie Williams.

Dance Companies: Ailey II, Ballet Hispanico, Intermezzo Dance Company, Joshua Beamish/Move: the company, Manuel Vignoulle Dance– M/motions, and Pontus Lidberg Dance.

And dancers: Paulo Arrais, Alex Biegelson, Biscuit, Shay Bland, Christopher Bloom, Mary Carmen Catoya, Chloe Cambelll, Marc Cardarelli, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Mark Gieringer, Jacob Guzman, Christopher Hernandez, Jakob Karr, Justin Keats, Dimitri Kleioris, Lindsay Janisse, Adrian Lee, Pontus Lidberg, Kourtni Lind, Reed Luplau, Chase Madigan, Raymond Matasamura, Johan Rivera Mendez, Adam Perry, Karine Plantadit, Kleber Rebello, Isaies Santamaria, Logan Schyvynck, Nicholas Sciscione, Corey Snide, Terrell Spence, Manuel Vignoulle Clifford Williams, Stephanie Williams, and Joshua Winzeler should all be commended for donating their time and sharing their artistry.  

The Fire Island Dance Festival is a once a year event that take place on the third Saturday of July, but the services provided by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are year round. DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states.To find out more about the programs and service provide or to make a donation visit dradance.org.

1) 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival 2) Desmond Richardson

Daniel Roberts Photographer

On Carousel  1) Pontus Lidberg Dance 2) Mary Carmen Catoya and Kleber Rebello 3) Manuel  Vignoulle Dance M/motions 4) Joshua Beamish/Move: the company 5) Charlie Williams 6) Ballet Hispanico 7) Al Blackstone 8) Ailey II 9) 10 Hairy Legs

Whitney Browne Photographer

 

4/14/15 O&A Dance: Ballet Hispanico Begins Joyce Season

By Walter Rutledge

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Ballet Hispanico begins a two-week New York City season Tuesday April 14 at the Joyce Theatre. The season will an eclectic mix ranging from a modern remake of an opera inspired classic, to a eighties showgirl tease. The season continues Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro vision of celebrating the Latino culture. O&A NYC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Walter Rutledge sat down with Vilaro to discuss the upcoming season and more. Continue reading

Ballet Hispanico Brings Machismo To The Joyce

By Walter Rutledge

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The first thing that becomes strikingly evident is the company’s strong roster of male dancers and their dominant role in the present repertoire. There is bravura and an unabashed machismo that exudes from the male performers; and to the credit of Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro, the persona doesn’t come across as a theatrical facade. Instead the dancers exude a confidence and comfort in the choreography.

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Umbral by choreographer Edgar Zendejas draws the audience into the ethereal world surrounding the beloved Mexican celebration Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.  Although Dia de los Muertos coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.

Jamal Callender and Joshua Winzler open the work, they share the stage with a motionless group of dancers, who sit with their backs turned. The encounter is more of a shared experience than a traditional duet. The imagery shifts from comforting and supportively sharing body weight, to haunting and surreal as Winzler muffles Callender’s silent screams.

As the dance moves from duet to octet the quality shifts to weighted movement working through deep second position plies and lunges. The sound of heels dropping to the floor in unison produce a heart-stopping thud. Joshua Preston striking lighting creates a cavernous eerie subterranean world. The ideal place to be introduced to the white faced skeletal figure of death performed with great intensity by Mario Ismael Espinoza.

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Espinoza’s long thick curly hair, high/lifted upper torso deportment and commanding presence were reminiscent of former Bejart principal dancer Jorge Donn. The treatment of the abstract narrative, combined with the rich use of symbolism and imagery presented a decidedly European esthetic. Two such sections are a movement for six men, and a section for the female ensemble.

A ring cell phone interrupted Espinoza’s solo. He walked to the edge of the stage and shushed the “offender”, as the ringing continued the audience also became annoyed and a few people vocally supported Espinoza. When a group of five male dancers joined him on stage to assist in chastising the person it became clear the audience had been duped. The section that followed was a fluid and lyric section with the male ensemble moving Espinoza in a series of lifts and supported movements.

When the ensemble women danced with Espinoza they stripped to the waist, dancing in place with their backs to the audience. Eventually they began to move across the stage; and strategically placed hands or arms kept them covered and chaste. The section had a cleverly designed enticing “peek-a-boo” effect.

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Sombrerisimo by choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa was a delightful up-tempo dance for five men, capturing the company’s credo of empowered male dancing. Christopher Bloom, Jamal Rashann Callender, Alexander Duval, Mario Ismael Espinoza and Johan Rivera Mendez expressed a bravado and unabashed male bonding through the guise of their hats. The ensuing dance featuring acrobatic tableaus, group lifts and partnering, and individual movement statements sprinkled with Latin social dance. With to a copulation of music by various artists including Banda Ionica featuring Macaco el Mono Loco and Titi Robin Sombrerisimo moves with an ease of an uptown ballroom.

Inspired by the surreal Belgian artist René François Ghislain Magritte, who famous images of men in bowler hats began with his 1926 painting The Musings of a Solitary Walker. In Magritte’s work the symbolism of the hat in many of his work is shared identity. Ochoa uses the hats to create unity while establishing to dancers individuality.

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The world premiere of El Beso by Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano closed the program. The work was dedicated the many variations of a kiss, and he approached the task with a combination of charm, passion and humor. After an orchestral fanfare Johan Rivera Mendez opened the work with a simple walk down stage, his ensuing solo responded to the pizzicato music with quick, crisp, tight movement that resonated through his entire body.  Sansano used this section to establish the work’s pacing and introduce the style for the group sections that would be reintroduced in the latter part of the ballet.

The opening encountered featured an aggressive Kimberly Van Woesik and a restrained Mendez. Mendez fended off Woesik’s overt advance with considerable gentlemanly diplomacy and the dismissive kiss was affectionate but clearly platonic. The encounters that followed ran the osculatory gamut.

The centerpiece of the work was an unexpected encounter between  Christopher Bloom  and Jamal Callender. The interlude began upstage of a giant fringed shawl. The triangle corner of the shawl fell behind the proscenium, and the fringe cleverly divided the stage into two rooms creating the illusion of a bearded curtain.  Callender and Winzeler eventually moved from the upstage room to the space in front of the fringe/curtain choreographically changing their encounter for the audience from mysterious to personal.

With a fixed intensity Callender walked downstage on the diagonal and literally “lip locked” Bloom. Sansano was able to make this an artistic and passionate moment that was more titillating than salacious. Callender, an artist of considerable depth, and Winzeler also deserve credit for their interpretation, which could have easily slipped into melodrama or camp.

Sansano returned to his original movement impetus for a rousing finale the economically capturing the energy of the coda. Mendez also repeated his opening promenade signaling the end of the work. In the hands of a less experienced choreographer this would have been predictable and, therefore, anti-climatic; here it was a welcomed and appropriate concluding moment.

It is worth repeating that over the last three seasons, under Vilaro’s stewardship, the company has moved in an exciting new direction. This Ballet Hispanico has become an ambassador of the Latino experience, focusing more on the culture and heritage of people of Spanish decent from the Western hemisphere. The company now is a technically proficient modern dance ensemble with strong balletic undertones, giving them the prowess to speak in many choreographic dialects.