By Walter Rutledge
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.
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.
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.