By Walter Rutledge
The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center opened their three-day New York season at the Actor’s Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street, with the first installment of Dancing The Single Life. The concert features five solo works by five choreographers Germaul Barnes, Gierre Godley, Amy Grant Hall, Jason Herbert and Christopher Rudd. It was an evocative evening of dance works by cutting edge dancer makers.
Germaul Barnes, founder of the Germaul Barnes/ Viewsic Expressions Dance, opened the program with an excerpt of Black Bones. The work was choreographed by the late Leni Williams and performed by guest artist (Dallas Black Dance Theatre) Sean Smith. This section, which was a tribute to Eleo Pomare’s Phoenix Rising and Talley Beatty’s Mourner’s Bench, used motifs found in both works. Smith performed with much conviction dancing on the bench and stage with a fluid ease.
Amy Hall Garner has already developed a signature look to her choreography. It is defined by her sweeping use of the space and ability to visualize syncopation and counterpoint through the dancer’s body. In Next Path set to String Quartet no. 2: The Fifth Season (Matangi Quartet) Hall presented an exciting solo work punctuated by nuanced moments of pure movement.
Lillie’s Blues by Jason Herbert was described as “A mother’s lament of her amazing regret”. The solo(s) were performed by Alexis Johnson and Whitney Brown. At times the solos in this expressive dance theatre work were performed in tandem contrasting the women, who shared the common bond of self-exploration. Herbert effectively juxtaposed Johnson’s earthy quality with Brown’s spitfire “kamikaze” attack.
I See by Christopher Rudd began in a small puddle of light that grew until the entire stage was engulfed in light and movement. Kristina Zaidner moved with a fleet-footed oft-time balletic deportment, but this did not prevent her from becoming one with the stage surface. She displayed the proper balance to do this dancing tone poem, set to a Chopin Nocturne, justice.
Choreographer Gierre Godley work entitled maybe. was anything but indecisive. Godley, the only choreographer to also perform, combined strong aggressive movement with sustained phrases and stillness. The outcome was a work of considerable intensity. A performer with a focused inner presence Godley masterfully walked directly downstage center with an unflinching gaze that literally made the audience hold their breath. With an audible exhale that signaled the final blackout, which cleverly and succinctly released us.
Dancing the Single Life continues Tuesday, June 24, with five more up and coming choreographers Jamel Gaines, Ranardo-Domeico Grays, William Isaac, Nijawwon Matthews and Leslie Parker. The performance begins at 7:30pm and advance tickets can be purchased on line at www.thelmahill.com. Tickets are $20/$15 (students and seniors) and can also be purchased at the door on the day of the performance. The box office opens at 6:45 pm.