By Walter Rutledge
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.