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.