4/21/18 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: newsteps- a choreographer’s series

By Walter Rutledge

The Chen Dance Center began the 34th consecutive newsteps; the semi-annual emerging choreographers’ series, Thursday, April 19 at the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown. This season the three-performance spring showcase, which runs through Saturday, April 21, selected works from “non- dancers”. Professional artists, actors, musicians, singers, photographers, who applied their expertise of their respective art forms to the choreographic process. The five choreographers selected through an open audition for the April concerts are Kate Douglas, Bryndon Cook, Lauren Oliver, Alec Funiciello, and Sophia Zukoski. Each choreographer is given rehearsal space, an honorarium, mentoring from a member of the selection panel, and multiple (three) performances to give the works time to “find its own voice”. Continue reading

12/11/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: NewSteps, a choreographic showcase

By Walter Rutledge

NewSteps, a choreographic showcase, began the 23-year of bi-annual presentations on December 7 at the Chen Dance Center 70 Mulberry Street. The series presented 6 works by 8 choreographers Jenny Boissiere, Esmé Boyce, Keith Comley, Chelsea Hecht, Alexandra Lockhart, Emily McDaniel, Emily McDaniel, Nikki Theroux and Shannon Yu. NewSteps offers new and emerging choreographers rehearsal space, mentoring, and a stipend to create works less than 10 minutes in length. NewSteps promotes “new steps”; in other words, all of these original works are crafted for the three performance choreographic showcase. Continue reading

12/7/17 O&A NYC DANCE: NewSteps 2017 Begins Tonight- Meet The Choreographers- Keith Comley

By Walter Rutledge

Newsteps begins their 35th bi-annual emerging choreographers showcase December 7 through December 9 at the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown. Newsteps offers new and emerging dance makers the opportunity to develop and present works in a low pressure, nurturing environment. Each choreographer is given rehearsal space, an honorarium, mentoring from a member of the selection panel, and multiple (three) performances to give the works time to “find its own voice”. Continue reading

5/10/17 O&A NYC DANCE: NewSteps 2017 Meet The Choreographer- Mary Grace McNally

NewSteps, a choreographer’s series, will present five works by eight choreographers and collaborators. This final installment highlights choreographer Mary Grace McNally. The remaining dance makers include Molly Mingey, Ryan Pliss, Deborah Gladstein/Helen Yee,  Quinn Dixon and Bree Nasby. The series will take place May 11 through 13 at the Chen Dance Center 70 Mulberry Street.  Continue reading

5/7/17 O&A NYC DANCE: NewSteps Meet The Choreographers- Ryan Pliss

NewSteps, a choreographer’s series, will present five works by eight choreographers and collaborators. The emerging dance makers include Ryan Pliss, Deborah Gladstein/Helen Yee, Mary Grace McNally, Molly Mingey, Quinn Dixon and Bree Nasby. The series will take place May 11 through 13 at the Chen Dance Center 70 Mulberry Street.  Continue reading

5/6/17 O&A NYC DANCE: NewSteps- Meet The Choreographers (part two)- Deborah Gladstein and Helen Yee

NewSteps, a choreographer’s series, will present five works by eight choreographers and collaborators. The emerging dance makers include Deborah Gladstein/Helen Yee, Mary Grace McNally, Molly Mingey, Quinn Dixon and Bree Nasby, and Ryan Pliss. The series will take place May 11 through 13 at the Chen Dance Center 70 Mulberry Street.  Continue reading

5/4/17 O&A NYC DANCE: NewSteps- Meet The Choreographers- Quinn Dixon and Bree Nasby

NewSteps, a choreographer’s series, will present five works by eight choreographers and collaborators. The emerging dance makers include Mary Grace McNally, Molly Mingey, Quinn Dixon and Bree Nasby, Deborah Gladstein/Helen Yee and Ryan Pliss. The series will take place May 11 through 13 at the Chen Dance Center 70 Mulberry Street.  Continue reading

1/14/17 O&A NYC (REVISED) DANCE REVIEW: Newsteps 2017

By Walter Rutledge

Newsteps presented their 33rd bi-annual emerging choreographers showcase January 12 through January 14th at the Chen Dance Center, 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown. Newsteps offers new and emerging dance makers the opportunity to develop and present works in a low pressure, nurturing environment. Each choreographer is given rehearsal space, an honorarium, mentoring from a member of the selection panel, and multiple (three) performances to give the works time to “find its own voice”.

NewSteps presented five works by six choreographers: Evelyn Chen, Christina Coleman, Quinn Dixon, Seneca Lawrence, Rashida Lyles and Matilda Sakamoto. The evening offered a varied array of artistic expression ranging from witty to prophetic. Each work was an original and oft-times personal statement expressed through movement.

Cat Diaries by Matilda Sakamoto started the evening with thought-provoking imagery appropriately offset with a dash of whimsy. Victor Lozano and Madalyn Segale opened with a series of tight, sporadic isolated upper body movement interrupted by a blackout. When the light returned a small mechanical cat waved at us before retreating into the darkness.

The blackout continued giving the abstract work an episodic feeling that contributed the overall thematic design. When Sakamoto joins the couple the imagery shifts into a series of interactions that suggest relationships. The strongly gesture driven section featured stationary frontal passages assisted by good use symmetry.

Rashida Lyles choreographed and performed 73/Eagle set to a collage of music including Maxwell, Sergio Mendes and Da Lata. Lyles presented a jazzy up-tempo solo celebration; that brought a little South American carnival heat to a wintery New York night. An amalgam of jazz, Samba and original ethnic inspired movement combined with playful theatrics created a fun yet inspirational work of female empowerment and self-esteem.

Mount, a collaborative work by performers and choreographers Evelyn Chen and Quinn Dixon, opened with Quinn seated upstage with Chen quickly entering from the stage door. The first section used focused and concise imagery that effectively manipulated time and space. Slow motion and stillness seemed to suspend time and provide the audience a clear focal point.

The ensuing movement conversation shifted from introspective to explosive with the introduction of music by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. The rock infused section became the main body of the work, and provided a total contrast to the opening section. Mount returned to the original theme for resolution leaving Quinn in solitude.

Here Often reminisced the first line of the Mary Tyler Moore Show “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” The trio, featuring choreographer Seneca Lawrence, Nicole Lemelin and Chisto Yanagisawa cleverly depicted female oppression. The imagery created an often tongue-in-cheek dancing protest toward the morass and stereotypes assigned to women.

The work had an Eisenhower era Barbara Billingsly Leave It To Beaver quality that evoked a robotic Stepford Wives mystique. Through series of tableaus Lawrence effectively made a powerful social statement using minimalism. The final section, set to George and Ira Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me, had more lyric undertones while retaining the comedic/satirical thread.

Christina Coleman’s Hallowed closed the program with an ensemble work featuring nine dancers. Hallowed had a ritualistic theme that encompassed the tenets from many religions. Coleman presented an abstract narrative that addresses religious tolerance and confronts oppression. The finale featured a dancer downstage center clutching pages, which had been violent torn from a religious document, while softly chanting.

The Chen Dance Center clearly understands the importance of providing a nurturing, professional environment for new and emerging artists. Since 1994, Newstep has produced over 300 artists. For artists interested in presenting works in NewSteps visit chendancecenter.org.

1/18/16 O&A NYC REVIEW: newsteps: a choreographer’s series

By Walter Rutledge

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newsteps: a choreographer’s series presented by the Chen Dance Center showcased the work of five emerging dance makers in three performance, Thursday January 14 through Saturday January 16. The showcased marked the 22nd consecutive year of bi-annual performances that support the creative process defined by Doris Humphrey as “The art of making dances”. The juried series provides rehearsal space, mentoring, technical support, and a small stipend that culminates with multiple public performances.

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What We’re In Now by Hannah Garner got the evening off on a strong note. Set to the music of Italian film composer and pianist Armando Trovajoli, the duet opened with a seated Garner and Will Noling. Right from the beginning the dancers established a persona that clearly communicated to the audience.

The ensuing movement conversation ranged from contemplative to humorous. The couple, clearly in a relationship, exuded a humanistic honesty that endeared them to the audience. The quirky partnering defied convention becoming integral to the choreographer’s vocabulary.

Ayaka Kamei presented a solo entitled Stay with Me with music by Oda Kazumasa and Zoe Keating. The the amber lighting, jewelry box music and dancer Seneca Lawrence’s pixie-like approach created an air of early morning lightness. Lawrence lulled the audience into a false sense of easiness until a siren and a stage washed in red light interrupted her somnambulism. The work culminates with Lawrence returning to her opening demeanor in repose.

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The Scar by Laura Henry featured a quintet clad in distressed khaki shorts and torn tops, which reminisced television’s Survivor, set in Scythia (the land of the Amazons). The angular arms adorned deep plies in second position, and counterbalanced a barrage of a la seconde battlements and athletic jumps. The worked ended with a solo dancer sequestered in a center stage downspot slowly descending in darkness.

Takeshi Ohashi’s textural duet The time presented a multi-faceted relationship performed by Maki Shinagawa and Vivake Khamsingavath. The work opened with Shinagawa slowly walking downstage left balancing an apple on the head of a crouching Khamsingavath. Eventually Khamsingavath sat downstage right and begins to peel the apple.

Throughout the duet Ohashi displayed strong choreographic form showering us with focused imagery that extended beyond elementary poses. One example, a movement passage void of physical contact; then the duet exploded in a flurry of lifts. The “partnering abstinence” made the proceeding section of lifts extremely powerful. The work ended with Khamsingavath now leading a couching Shinagawa upstage. The role reversal produced a clever new perspective to the movement and an unexpected plot twist.

The evening concluded with Quiet, a quartet featuring Elliott Keller, Sarina Taggart, Fola Walker and choreographer Gina Montalto. The work offered good spatial relationships with a strong reliance on symmetry. Montalto displayed good form with quick movement passages that retreated into stillness providing a fitting contrast to the music.

The skyrocketing cost of retail rentals space has forced many non-profit organizations to become homeless. This makes the efforts of organizations like Chen Dance Center not only commendable, but also necessary. newsteps: a choreographer’s series continues the time-honored tradition of nurturing the next generation of choreographers. The next series scheduled for May 19 through May 21 will begin accepting candidates for auditions on February 2. For more information about the newsteps: a choreographer’s series and Chen Dance Center’s other programs visit chendancecenter.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/21/15 O&A REVIEW: Newsteps –a choreographers series  

By Walter Rutledge

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The 2015 spring Newsteps held its biannual concert May 7th through May 9th at the Chen Dance Center. The series showcased five choreographers for three performances. Choreographers Jonathan Breton, Hannah Cohen, Bree Nasby, Janice Rosario, and Ashley Carter & Vanessa Martinez de Banos were selected through an open audition format. Each choreographer receive feedback from the panelists, a rehearsal space grant, an honorarium, and one on one mentoring with an adviser, which culminated in three public performances.

Hannah Cohen presented a duet entitled Genesis. The work opened with performers Brianna Dixon and Ricky Wenthen intertwined in a sculpted posed. The duet developed the opening tableau into a series of shared weight balanced movement. Cohen’s use of symmetry became a successful device, which enhanced the overall choreographic design.

It girl choreographed and performed by Bree Nasby begin facing upstagewith an isolated movements. Set to an electronic score by Rex the Dog the work quickly turned the isolations into simulated robotic movement phrases. The introduction of a less controlled middle section became the work saving grace. The undulating declaration subtly reverted back to the opening theme to conclude the work.

Janice Rosario presented Unlea(she)d, a cleanly crafted quartet. Performed by Kara Kaplan, Sofia Kezevadze, Deanne Martinez and Rosario, the work had a lyric quality that was occasionally punctuated with bursts of staccato passages. Rosario’s use of theme and development, canon against unison, level and symmetry/asymmetry helped to create a good architectural work with strong design elements.

Jonathan Breton designed his solo work Memories in two sections. The opening section had an abstract narrative feeling, the story of unrequited moved through a blend of ballet, modern and gestural movement. Breton performed with technical confidence and a free unencumbered port de bra. The work ended with Breton retrograding the choreography, performing the movement in reverse to end in the opening pose.

During the transition a shirt left in a center spotlight anchored the sections. The lights dimmed and Breton reappeared bare-chested sequestered in an expansive orange skirt-like drape. A sense of emotional resolve and introspection, echoed through the contrast in the movement, which was all performed without standing.

The program ended with Rights & Rites choreographed by Ashley Carter and Vanessa Martinez de Banos. Dancers Jaclyn Birkner, Jen Chiang, KP, Sofia Sereno, Mikki Shoji and Katie Sloan performed the physical choreography with the proper attack. The choreography relied heavily on unison, which as the central choreographic device has its pros and cons.

Unison provides a power from the en mass movement, but it also requires precision and structural disciple to create climaxes and anti-climaxes throughout the work. Without a strong structure the work will become “one-note” and will not have that rollercoaster effect needed for sustained unison. In this case the work would have benefited from more structural diversity.

Newsteps continues the tradition of nurturing emerging choreographers with an emphasis on process. The series holds auditions twice the next scheduled for October 7, 2015. Choreographers interested in applying contact Chen Dance Center at (212) 349-0438.