5 By 5 = variety, in ADF’s 6th event in 2016

American Dance Festival director Jodee Nimerichter’s adventurous and probing spirit is clearly at play in some of her programming, with its insistence that dance can be so many things. Last year we got a program of four ADF-commissioned duets; the year before, four solos by mature male choreographers. This year, in 5 By 5, we get a mixed program by five very different choreographers: two solos; one duet; one quartet and one octet.

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Smart phones light the magic circle in Rosie Herrera’s Carne Viva, commissioned by the ADF, at its premiere in Reynolds, as part of the 5 By 5 program, 6/28/16. Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

The quartet which opened the program is an ADF commission by Rosie Herrera (who made a duet last year with Larry Keigwin). The new work, Carne Viva, in its premiere on June 28th, recalled the surprising surreality with which Herrera first rolled over us in 2009. This is a fairly short piece, set to three songs (as always, Herrera has chosen powerful music). It opens with an incredible feat that makes an indelible image: A tall man holds a short woman up in the air, his arms straight up. He holds her in the air longer than seems possible, then gently sets her down. He’s radiant with ardor; she’s distant and bored. Again he lifts her, this time sinking himself and pressing his head on her belly when he sets her down. And again, arduousness turning ardor to anger, he lifts her high; clutching and grasping at her feet when he sets her down. She exits; another woman appears and he lifts her, and exits with an anguished scream.

During the second song, two women–lovers?–tussle in an extremely dynamic segment; during the third, mystery and magic return. The piece concludes with a stunningly passionate female solo set against a backdrop of pure anomie–all the others are alone with their phones.

Rosie Herrera is an example of how important the ADF can be to dancers’ and  choreograpers’s careers. Former director Charles Reinhardt came across Herrera in her home town of Miami and invited her to the festival. Her work was well received and she was invited to return and new work commissioned. (She has now been presented at ADF several times.) While at the festival, she became acquainted with dancers here; two are included in this show–Durham native Hannah Darrah, and local dancer/choreographer Shaleigh Comerford, a piece of whose was included in last season’s Here and Now program (for which Herrera was one of the adjudicators). And of course, the other side of this is that we, the audience in Durham, has had the privilege of watching Herrera mature and expand on her early powers.

 

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Mark Dendy caricaturing Donald Rumsfeld in an excerpt from his Dystopian Distractions. Photo: Grant Halverson.

We’ve also seen Mark Dendy more than once, but I still don’t get it with him. He always seems to me like he’s squandering his talent on irrelevancies. His solo piece on this program is, blessedly, brief. What you see in the photo is what you get: Dendy in a chair, masquerading as one of the more horrible characters of recent American power politics, Donald Rumsfeld, and miming Rumsfeld’s actions during an interview which we hear in a recording. It involves a story about Rumsfeld, who knew nothing about him, meeting Elvis in his latter days of performing in Las Vegas. Possibly the point was that today most people are as ignorant of Rumsfeld as he was of Elvis; or maybe it is that Elvis is still widely–universally–known, but Rumsfeld, once so powerful, has become an unknown. Whatever, it was awfully irritating to hear Rumsfeld’s voice again.

 

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Olivia Court Mesa and Yochai Ginton depict lovers’ struggles in Dafi Albtabeb’s Never the Less. Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

Israeli choreographer Dafi Albtabeb’s duet, Never the Less, contained some striking similarities with Herrera’s work, with several positions and motions used for much the same purposes. But Albtabeb focused on a single couple, probably in a long-term committed relationship. Everything that happens is recognizable, and some of it painfully so–everything except the silken smoothness with which it unfolds. The dancing is very fine.

 

 

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Gabrielle Revlock with her space-sculpting Halo. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Gabrielle Revlock brings us back to physical delight and the amazement of physics with her hula hoop dance. In and out of the hoop she goes, shimmying it up and down and around in a rather incredible sequence. It’s almost as if the hoop is carving space, and certainly we become hyper-aware of different parts of her body as she moves the hoop. In her little white romper, a cross between old-fashioned gym suits and something a goddess would wear for frolicking, she seems playful, but as you can see from the photograph, she has some serious skills. My companion wished for more ritual meaning in the work, but I thought the motion and the space brought enough joy that anything else would have been superfluous.

 

 

The program closes with the marvelous Brian Brooks Moving Company. Brooks’ splendid choreography, a kaleidoscope of cycling patterning and dispersal, is set to a “recomposition” of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” by Max Richter. This recomposition or refreshment is highly textured and muscular, full of pleasure and excitement. The dancing is the same: fresh and strong,  pretty and lyrical, bold, and buoyant. Apparently there is still room in the 21st century for some 18th century aesthetics.

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Brian Brooks Moving Company in his Torrent of dance. Photo: Grant Halverson.

 

5 By 5 continues June 29 and 30, 8 pm, Reynolds Theater. Tickets here.

 

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Some Duos Are More Dynamic Than Other Duos…

…but dynamism is not the only worthy quality in dance. As the 2015 American Dance Festival continues this week with four commissioned duets by paired choreographer/dancers, it offers us a chance to not only see new work unfettered by economic constraints, but to consider what we value in dance art. Whether we value any particular style or content in these new works, we ought to all value the fact that artists have been able to make them thanks to the support of the ADF. Last year, the ADF commissioned solos; this year duos–perhaps next year it will be trios. The Dynamic Duos program opened last night in Reynolds Theater, and will run through July 1.

Jesse Zaritt, front, and Mark Haim premiered Golden Age at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Jesse Zaritt, front, and Mark Haim premiered their Golden Age at ADF on 6/29/15.  Photo: Grant Halverson.

I, for instance, greatly prefer dancing to talking in a dance work. Yet sometimes choreographers are able to introduce talking in ways that do not cancel out the communicativeness of the silent, speaking bodies, and combining the forms increases expressive power of both. Sometimes, though, more is less.

The program opens with a strange and wonderful work, Golden Age, by Mark Haim and Jesse Zaritt, that evokes superheroes–and Caravaggio. Roman ruins–and the city dump. The now–and the mist-shrouded past. It remarks on ever-ascendant youth, flaunting its glories over sturdy age. Mostly it manages this without words, relying instead on Zaritt’s beautiful dancing body, limber and exuberant, and Haim’s graceful, certain elegance of motion. Which age is golden, young or older, now or past? I’d see this again, except for the brutal after-effects of the heavy theatrical haze (that makes such wonderful stage pictures). More than 12 hours later, my eyes, throat and lungs still burn. Fortunately, Golden Age is highly memorable.

The same could not be said Taryn Griggs’ and Chris Yon’s Conspicuous Birds. The two dancers mimic various bird behaviors, while wearing fabulously glittering, wing-sleeved tops over dark pants (costumes by Tiny Yogg’s Ma). The lighting plays marvelously on the fabrics as the dancers move. Clearly, they have closely observed many species of birds, and many of the movement patterns are true and charming. The problem is, the movement doesn’t vary much, but it goes on for a long time. And nothing really happens, dramatically speaking.

Taryn Griggs, L, and Chris Yon in the premiere of Conspicuous Birds at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Taryn Griggs, L, and Chris Yon in the premiere of Conspicuous Birds at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

After a rousing start with the Overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Small Stories fell silent. Claire Porter and Sarah Juli stood far downstage, one on either side, in satin recital gowns, alternately mouthing words as a single spot alternately separated them from the darkness. The effect was similar to a flashing ad on a web page–very irritating. Eventually the volume increases to audible, but the language remains fragmentary a while longer before actual sentences emerge. After that, the experience is like catching bits of conversation in a moving crowd, or like listening to chickens cluck and fuss while pecking for food. When it got to the stage of the movement artists mockingly mouthing the words to “Che Gelida Manina,” (Pavarotti version) and for no apparent reason pulling up their petticoats to reveal red underpants, my across-the-aisle neighbor (a man renowned for both his courtesy and his passion for music) abruptly decamped. There was nothing I valued in this piece, except for the fact that the makers had had the opportunity to try something.

Sara Juli, front, and Claire Porter in the premiere of their Small Stories at ADF 6/129/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Sara Juli, front, and Claire Porter in the premiere of their Small Stories at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

I had to stay, because I had to see what Rosie Herrera and Larry Keigwin had gotten up to together. These two are wacky, brilliant and skillful on their own–what kind of craziness would they make together? Something Wonderful has some pretty wonderful moments, and the piece begins with dancing. Larry Keigwin can move! Such a pleasure to see him again. And Rosie Herrera has an unerring instinct for both motion and stillness, and knows just where to slice with her scalpel, dramatically speaking, so that we can see the forces at work on the human heart. There’s a bit with a poem and a microphone (a little too long) that makes the analogy (perhaps too clearly) between the art-making process and the love-making endeavor that’s so smart and funny that one easily forgives its slight self-indulgence. Bruised, broken, bloodied but unbowed, these artists, tangled up in art, will dance on. In this case, dynamically.

Larry Keigwin and Rosie Herrera in the premiere of Something Wonderful at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

Larry Keigwin and Rosie Herrera in the premiere of Something Wonderful at ADF 6/29/15. Photo: Grant Halverson.

ADF: Ballet Hispanico

 

Jamal Rashann Callender and Lauren Alzamora in Ballet Hispanico's Sortijas, June 20, 2014. Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

Jamal Rashann Callender and Lauren Alzamora in Ballet Hispanico’s Sortijas, June 20, 2014. Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

Ballet Hispanico gave a sensuous and thought-provoking performance to begin the American Dance Festival’s second week on June 20-21. Its highlights were Cayetano Soto‘s dark, spiky male-female duet Sortijas, set to a haunting song by Lhasa de Sela, and a new work by Rosie Herrera, Show.Girl, which looks at Cuban-American Latina identity, Miami version. Herrera continues to refine her unique sensibility without suppressing its outrageous vitality, and Show.Girl may prove a pivotal dance in her career.

Read my full review here, published June 21, 2014 on cvnc.org. 

From the first act of Rosie Herrera's operatic cabaret dance-theatre work, Show.Girl, June 20, 2014. Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

From the first act of Rosie Herrera’s operatic cabaret dance-theatre work, Show.Girl,                     June 20, 2014. Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

Not even the most amazing moment in the second act fan dance of Show.Girl. June 20, 2014. Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

Not even the most amazing moment in the second act fan dance of Show.Girl. June 20, 2014.       Photo: Grant Halverson ©ADF.

Ballet Hispanico in Eduardo Vilaro's Danzon. Photo: © Paula Lobo.

Ballet Hispanico in Eduardo Vilaro’s Danzon. Photo: © Paula Lobo.

 

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