Saturday, June 6, 2020

Dance Review: Hot-Off-the-Press Dance, Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre

Ya Samaar! -Photo by Isabel Asha Penzlien Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre is a hot-off-the press dance company with choreographer, Samar Haddad King, creating dances about the pervading issues and conflicts of today’s world. King looks at the controversy that arises amongst groups with varying belief systems and what happens when these systems collide.  According to Ms. King, her goal is to “collaborate with artists across disciplines, cultural geographies, and physical borders with the intent to forge stimulating and transformative experiences for both audience and performer.”  The combination of the dramatic subject matter and the technical ability and experience of his dancers makes for an undeniable explosive combination.

The compelling and passionate duet, Al Bikr Adaptation (The firstborn), brings the audience into the world of Samar Haddad King.  Instead of her other works of the night which attempt to bridge cultural/religious gaps, this creation does not need to cross any boundaries.  The piece is about the universal tragedy of losing a child.  Dancers Josiah Guitian and Stephanie Sutherland passionately depict anguish and longing for their stillborn child.  They appear dependent on each other, but desperately want this painful period in their lives to be over.  Guitian and Sutherland are excellent partners, complementing each other’s athletic prowess with their acting skills.  The dancers are able to portray how a couple’s lack of communication ultimately leads to their downfall.

Have Something to Say Join Today!  Green Kristen Osler portrays Penelope in this beautifully constructed solo with text by Samar Haddad King.  This is a narrative about regrets and wanting to change the past.  Penelope is the second piece of the evening that transcends cultural boundaries.  Everyone feels regrets about their past no matter where you come from.  Ms. Osler’s movements are so smooth that she appears to dance every single thought from the text.  The stream of consciousness fits perfectly with Osler’s languid movements.  Throughout the piece she is constantly taking on and off her shirt as a sort of symbolic way of exposing and hiding her soul.  Penelope is an intimate and dynamic glimpse in the mind of a woman coping with regrets.

Ya Samaar! -Photo by Isabel Asha Penzlien Frozen Belief II closes out the night with performers Yukari Osaka, Kristen Osler, and Kathryn Baer Schetlick bearing all in this piece about individual faith and the interaction between different faiths.  The three women begin the piece with their backs to the audience. T hey are topless, kneeling in what appears to be sand.  They start throwing sand into the air from their baskets, creating a mesmerizing and almost mystical atmosphere.  They are each alone in their own faiths and belief systems, unaware of any other system.  The piece begins to progress as each dancer dons white flowing tunics and realizes that there are two other dancers next to her.  This realization is symbolic to the issues that arise when different belief systems come into contact with each other and how people deal with these differences.  The carefully crafted text interspersed throughout the piece is read in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.  The choice to use these languages helps create an effect of diverse cultural groups coming together and trying to reconcile differences.

Yaa Samar!  Dance Theatre is a intriguingly provocative and sincere dance force with a admirable goal of using dance to bridge cultural and religious divides.

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Official Dance Review by Amanda Keller
Performance:  Yaa Samar!  Dance Theatre

Venue:  LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, NY
Performance Date:  Saturday, September 26, 2009

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