Thursday, August 11, 2022

And the winner is….Fresh Tracks Dance Theater Workshop January 23, 2009

The Fresh Tracks series at Dance Theater Workshop is the most competitive emerging choreographer showcase in New York. The prize, in addition to showing your work, is 50 hours of rehearsal space, along with workshops in grant writing etc. But most importantly, it says that you may be the next big thing. Some Fresh Tracks artists go on to make a wealth of work, while others fade into nonexistence. Which of these six choreographers will we see again? We shall see.

Adriane Lee starts off the program with three dancers onstage, two frozen, and one doing backwards arm circles. Her bright orange FedEx jumper creates a brushing sound each time her arms pass by her side, and under the light, her movement leaves a visual trail. This is the most fascinating part of the piece. Later, the music kicks in, they shed their layers, and go into movement sequences of deep lunges, front attitudes, and more arm circles. The lights fade while one dancer is still shedding his outer layer, suggesting continuation outside of view. Maybe that’s where the piece finishes. What is visible looks incompl___.

Next is a duet created by Devynn Emory. In a sharp square down-light, a body stands facing upstage. She slowly rotates to reveal that she is supporting another (Emory), but not for long, she drops her to the floor. Again, Emory mounts her partner, slow rotation, drop. They slide along the floor on their backs, shifting direction in right angles. Then it evolves from there. The visual clarity of the piece is satisfying. It is precise but not mechanical. Their subtle communication between each other and the audience is very much human.

As I hear heavy footsteps in the dark at the beginning of the next piece I think, oh no, another modern dance piece of heavy loping around on stage. But I’m in for a surprise as I enter the absurd world of Jen Rosenblit and the BottomHeavies. They empty stuff out of their pockets, sport futuristic black costumes, scatter bling on the floor to hip hop music, and lope offstage stark naked. I’m not sure where she’s going with this, but I’ll go with her.

Sahar Javedani is an Iranian-American choreographer relating, in her solo, the dilemma of being caught between cultures. Red light slowly fades up on articulate upper body movements. She shifts from drama to comedy, delivering a slide show which she entitles, “I am just like you”. She flips through photographs of Middle Eastern women, making clever comic comparisons to American pop culture, for example, “I can stand under my umbrella-ella-ella-ella, just like you.”

Stacy Grossfield’s piece juxtaposes everyday gestures with strange movements. Her dancers shift between communicative gestures, figure poses, and awkward walks. It is her intention to connect the “world on stage to the one outside; commenting that dance is everywhere if you take notice”, not really a novel idea, but still applicable.

Of the Fresh Tracks faces, Hilary Clark’s is the least “fresh”, being already known in the dance world. I know her through her performances in Tere O’Connor’s work, and even though Clark has made much of her own, I still associate her with Tere’s work. As a viewer, it’s hard to ignore associations, which makes me wonder if it’s really possible to create your own voice while being a vessel for someone else’s voice. That being said, Hilary Clark’s piece deviates enough from Tere O’Connor’s work that I’m able to separate it. The hilarious duet begins with Hilary singing, “I’m having a pity party, and I’m the only one at my party”. She continues in movement to make satirical comments on dance, like moving across the diagonal as one would in class. Underneath the humor, there’s a tone of desperation. The comedic climax arrives as both she and Larissa have over-egaggerated physical freak-outs on the floor to sappy romantic music. The lights fade, but it’s not over. Once the applause dissipates, we hear Hilary still trapped in a cycle of ongoing frantic movement. Larissa chimes in with “help her!”, and there’s a final episode before it’s really over. I thought it was great.

In the past, Fresh Tracks has helped launch the careers of such well-known choreographers as Bill T. Jones and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, but it’s not necessarily the insta-ticket to success. It’s the artists who continue to make their work, whom we’ll see again. It’s the people who make it (the work that is), who make it.

iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Julie Fotheringham
Performance: Dance Theater Workshop Fresh Tracks Series
Venue: Dance Theater Workshop
Date: January 23, 2009
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