Friday, April 12, 2024

Dance Review: American Dance Guild Squeaks By

The American Dance Guild’s performance festival is an evening of choreography with a feature by Donald McKayle.  This evening is filled with ups and downs… or shall I say downs and ups? We encounter the first “down” when the box office opens directly at show-time, causing a 20-minute-or-longer pre-show delay.  Ah well, that was forgivable, but as for the rest of the evening……I’m working on it.

The evening begins with a tribute to Erick Hawkins through a presentation of his piece “Cantilever.”  This piece had the same structure throughout with no real highs and lows.  Instead of being consumed by the dance, I often find myself looking over at the musicians who are working it out!  The percussionist in particular is working more than the dancers!  The music is a complex pattern of randomized noise, running back and forth between symbols, xylophones, and other instruments – even a board that he uses to make an interesting sound.

Are You A Dancer?  Join Today!The movement pays homage to American architecture, which is kind of ironic to watch, after one of the three pieces (that hangs as a backdrop) falls towards the start of the piece and is hanging by one string for the remainder of the piece… I can feel the audience gasping in- holding their breath because at any moment the piece is about to fall and knock someone out!  ”Dancer down!  Dancer Down!”  Luckily this doesn’t happen.

A highlight of the evening is Ursula Payne’s piece entitled, “In Her Solitude: Lest We Forget.”  She is a good sport, considering the wrong music plays for her piece and she very comically begins to improv while telling the technical staff, “This is the wrong music!!!”  It makes the whole audience laugh.  And to top that, she still manages to grab my attention when she actually gets the chance to perform to her REAL music, “Prospectors Arrive“ composed by Jonny Greenwood.  Her piece comments on a woman and her relationship with a rocking chair.  It seems to make a comment on the strength of the womanly figure, mothers and grandmothers, who go through so much internally but manage to still be our saviors.  Her choreography is interesting as she mimics the rocking of the chair, climbs on, over, and through the chair, and even picks it up and dances with it in her arms.  I am intrigued by the subtle fact that she keeps the chair rocking through the entire piece.  She finishes a move and then rocks the chair,..jump twirls, drops and then rocks the chair as she passes it…. Nice.

“Migration” is an interesting duet choreographed by Christine Germain in collaboration with Slater Penny.  The couple perform to live accordion music played by Ofir Uziel, and almost never leave contact with each other in a piece that seems to be about the simplicities of a couple being in each other‘s presence.  This piece uses complex lifts and circus-like balancing moments as both dancers, Germain and Penny, lift each other equally.  It is always interesting to see a woman lift a man on stage as it breaks the assumptions that the eye is used to seeing in dance.

The most eclectic piece of the night is “Splitter”, a comical piece that explores the human body, choreographed by Bert Gstettner.  The dancers start by performing a song with lyrics that are body parts.  “They scream, “Head, head, shoulder, chest, elbow, elbow, knee, leg, arm, teeth!”  At the beginning I am thinking “what the…” in my head but by the end I am slightly entertained as I realize it is supposed to be comical.  The movement is very limited but appropriate for the theme as they allow each body part to lead them as they shout its name.

“Et Tu” choreographed by Kyla Barkin, a duet performed by Barkin and Aaron Selissen, uses the music, “Looking Through You” performed by the Wallflowers and “Cocoon” by Jack Johnson, which is a nice emphasis to the VERY energetic movement.  At times it seems as Barkin is TOO energetic as they dance a story commenting on the highs and lows of a relationship.  I mean, I am literally watching a couple “go through it” on stage.  He throws her, she smacks him -leap, turn, drop, roll then she pushes him, then they are in love again..whew!!  The choreography is very intricate and well-rehearsed, as I know they would have to be to not smash into each other or smack each other in the face…lol.

Nejla Yatkin, photo by Lois Greenfield Yatkin, photo by Lois Greenfield And of course, last of the evening, but DEFINITELY not least was Donald McKayle’s “Angelitos Negros” performed by Nejla Yatkin…She is BEAuuuuuTIFUL!  … Just an all-around gorgeous dancer- you know, the type that can walk across the stage and flair her fingers and make you want to go back to class!!  Her presence is remarkable.  It was originally choreographed in 1972, and I watched a recording of her perform it when she was younger in the lobby after the show, but obviously the magic is still there and she works it out.  Bravo!

At the end of the night, YES- there were pieces that looked under-rehearsed, backdrops falling, incorrect music, oh and I forgot to mention some occasions of lighting mishaps and a TWO-and-a-HALF HOUR SHOW!  But, I can thankfully say that the dancers were good sports and remained professional, always giving their best, as all of us dancers do!

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Official Dance Review by JoiLynn
Performance: American Dance Guild Performance Festival
Venue: Manhattan Movement and Arts Center
Show Date: Thursday, September 10th, 2009

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