9/19/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: The Fire Island Dance Festival 2017

By Walter Rutledge

Bobby Vinton’s end of summer ode Sealed With A Kiss begins with the line “So we have to say goodbye to the summer”; but we would be remiss to leave the season without acknowledging the Fire Island Dance Festival. The Dancers Responding To AIDS annual fundraiser is one Fire Island’s most anticipated dance events. This year did not disappoint, the event showcased 10 stellar emerging, established and renowned choreographers and a gaggle of outstanding performers. This 10-course dance buffet, hosted by Tony Award winning actress Cady Huffman, offered a diverse menu with something for every dance palette ranging from neo-classical ballet to West African inspired dance.

Peridance Contemporary Dance Company opened the performance with Dia-Mono-Logues choreographed by company artistic director Igal Perry. The work’s prevalent theme was inspired by Perry’s own experiences as a 1970’s Israeli immigrant. The ensemble work for eight dancers captured Perry’s sojourn from community to separation to rediscovery in this well crafted abstract narrative.

Wisely using a restricted movement vocabulary Perry was able to construct multiple conversations performed simultaneously by three groups of dancers. This provided a strong dancing counterpoint that slipped into focused and well-directed canons; culminating in spirited unison. The work ended with a crescendo of music and movement climaxing with the dancers lying spent on the stage; one solo performer moved slowly exiting stage left.

Miami City Ballet presented two programs Justin Peck’s Chutes and Ladders (performed by Jeanette Delegado and Kleber Rebello) for the two Saturday July 15 performances, and My One Any Only variation from George Balanchine’s Who Cares (Delegado) on Sunday, July 16. Choreographed in 1970 Who Cares is one of Balanchine’s “Americana” ballets; which joins Stars and Stripes and Western Symphony as a salute to his adopted homeland. Delegado danced with the appropriate amount of verve; displaying effortless technique and an unencumbered port de bra (signature Balanchine). The perky, and upbeat work remains a visual delight.

Pontus Lidberg Dance presented A Different Passion performed by Barton Cowperthwaite and the choreographer. Lidberg’s use of weight and momentum in the partnering and effortless floor work established an aura of honesty and emotional completeness between the dancers. To his credit this love letter cleverly introduced strong sculptural imagery without slipping into predictable posse’.

Keon Thoulouis performed New Conversations: Oshosi Is Here with reserved nobility, embodying choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s mix of explosive power and assured coolness. An excerpt from Brown and Evidence: A Dance Company’s latest work, the solo showcased Brown’s trademark seamless melding West African and Eurocentric contemporary dance styles and choreographic cannons. The Auturo O’Farrill Afro-Cubian score, featuring West African drum laced jazz, complemented Brown’s movement and choreographic intent.

Clad in red and blue sleeveless coveralls choreographers and performers Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener’s Desire Liar opened with Mitchell initiating sporadic upper body movement juxeposed by Riener’s stillness. The ensuing tete-a-tete quickly established a dialog the dancers easily communicated beyond the footlights. The work evolved into a courting ritual with primal undertones. Mitchell and Silas did not mimic or borrow from any one ethnicity; instead the duo defined their own indigeneity. By combining strong sculptural elements, grounded rhythmic contemporary inspired movement, and the simple and subtle balance of symmetric and asymmetrical imagery Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener’s created a work with a visually pleasing Calder-que lightness.

How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore choreographed by Al Blackstone with Billy Griffin and featuring James Whiteside combined two favorite themes sex and murder. This fun fantasy (a cross between Looking for Mr. Goodbar and American Pyscho) was actual a duet with an ensemble of five male dancers, in this case suitors.

Throughout the work James Whiteside encountered his hunky object of desire in what is best described as a mix of ambivalence and lust. Between encounters Whiteside systematic and violently incapacitates the ensemble with black widow veracity. The dance gave a new meaning to Prince’s falsetto manifesto. 

Acosta Danza presented Nosotros; an impassioned duet choreographed by Beatriz Garcia and Raul Reinoso. Clad in provocative beige lace jumper and suspendered shorts respectively dancers Mario Sergio and Reinoso explored emotions of love and loss. The most overtly erotic work on the program combined a pleasing blend of strength and fragility cleverly avoided predictable clichés creating a sense of anticipation.

Dancer Michael Blake opened Lorin Latarro’s For Those Before with an expansive and welcoming arms open greeting, setting the tone for this inviting and holistic work. Dancers of varied ethnicities, body types, disciplines and ages co-existed onstage making a subtle yet thunderously profound statement. Latarro’s strong use of imagery cleverly explored taboo relationships with pathos, grace and good choreographic form.

Caleb Teicher & Company combined swing and jazz dance, partnering and a welcomed dash of 30’s/40’s movie musical razzle-dazzle to create a delightful homage to jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald. With Fred and Ginger high-energy precision, and clean crisp partnering Names playfully disarmed the audience. The shared lead/follow responsibilities avoided roleplaying; and coincidently this was the only duet that ended with the couple still together. Who knew the two nerds from the Big Bang Theory had the right relationship formula.

Tatakai by choreographer Manuel Vignoulle for Makers Dance Company closed the program with a testosterone charged ensemble work for seven men. This dance narrative inspired by the Samurai battle of Sekigahara transported us to Japan’s tumultuous Sengoku era (1467- 1603). Vignoulle’s decision to create a “storytelling ballet” set very high artistic goals.

Ballet staples peppered the work. A la seconde turns pulling into multiple pirouettes en dehors, flurries of pristine batterie, and lots of boundless jetes exploding in mid air extracted well deserve applause. Unfortunately these elements also undercut Vignoulle’s choreographic intent.

His strong architectural design and imagery, Eric Winterling’s striking costumes, and an incredible cast (courtesy American Ballet Theatre) could not compensate for the under explored character develop. In excerpts and smaller works characters having to be quickly established then slowly revealed. This essential component allows the dance narrative to build empathy, camaraderie, and even distain for the characters; thus bonding performer and spectator. Fortunately developing this element is well within the scope of this talented emerging choreographer.

The present political rhetoric’s foul stench has not cast a cloud over basic human decency. This is an attempt by small minds (and small hands) to erase the hard fought gains toward a more inclusive and tolerant global society. Artists must continue to use their craft as a weapon to combat injustice. We must remain a voice for the silent, vulnerable and underserved.

For 23 years the Fire Island Dance Festival has championed inclusiveness, and healing through the arts. The Fire Island Dance Festival provides assistance with great artistry, compassion, and the occasional pirouette. Your support for Dancers Responding To AIDS is welcome year round. If you would like to make a donation and find out more about the services offered visit dradance.org.

Photos By: 1. Yuris Norido  2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12. Daniel Roberts 3, 4, 6, 7, 8. Whitney Browne

 

7/10/17 O&A NYC OUT AND ABOUT: PICKS OF THE WEEK- What’s Happening This Week July 10- July 17, 2017

Summer is here and the city is abounding with activity “24- 7- 365”. We have art celebrating popular culture in Brooklyn. Dance honoring dancers downtown. Blockbuster and Indie film share the silver screen, music blends with movement to reflect on Asian culture at Carnegie Hall, and the swashbuckling continues in Harlem. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps guaranteed to keep you Out and About. Continue reading

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

By Walter Rutledge

Fire-Island-Dance-Festival-2015-cast-photo-by-Daniel-Roberts

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.

 Desmond-Richardson-Fire-Island-Dance-Festival-2015-photo-by-Daniel-Roberts

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