Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Dance Review: International and Full of Angst; Naganuma’s New American

Naganuma Dance -Nouveau Americain Darcy Naganuma’s company, Naganuma Dance, is a collection of beautifully muscled bodies that know how to move.  In their latest show, Nouveau Americain, this weekend at Joyce SoHo, Naganuma brings out all her tricks, b-girling, pas-de-chat-ing, and high-kicking through dissertations on our nation’s troubled state.

The first and strongest piece of the evening, Ameriwho?, opens with a string of spoken and visual responses from the international community to the question, "What is the first thing you think of when you think of America?".  Not many of the answers are positive and Naganuma takes these disconcerting impressions as the jumping off point for her choreography.  Her "New America" is fashionable- dancers are punk-ishly clad in zebra stripes, red, and cut-off jeans, but dysfunctional- they stagger and shake like hot-wired robots between jazzy jumps and turns.  As structure builds and unwinds the dancers are torn apart and glare at one another and the audience.  They take turns mouthing along with the Brazilian girls, "It’s not my fault."  Naganuma’s America, then, is post-Bush.  Struggling to move past the lingering troubles of the last 8 years, but getting sidelined, perhaps, in angst that does more harm than good.

Only the FIERCE Dancers Apply! Naganuma’s Box Suite relies on collapsible Ikea storage units for it’s movement invention, and does a great job riffing off comments that America is "A bunch of kinds" with it’s slapstick bumbling (heads inside the boxes) to Rachmaninoff’s very recognizable, "Flight of the Bumblebee."  Naganuma utilizes her dancers’ varied backgrounds by choreographing a hip-hop section starring Sarah Ahn from Hawaii who pulls off some great b- girl moves.  These are translated onto some of the more ballet-bodies in the cast, and morphed into petite allegro steps.  The dancer’s vibe off one another, tossing the boxes, sharing the limelight, and looking like powerful, versatile women.

Throughout the rest of the evening Naganuma expounds on this idea of the New American, finding strong material in her cast’s international background.  America, as we know, is a melting pot and it is great to hear Naganuma’s dancers all speaking in their native tongues.  Whether using a thick Trinidadian accent, German, Japanese, or Jersey slang, Naganuma’s dancers command their voices well, and let us know that they are intelligent people, bringing personal and varied backgrounds to an American dance company.

Finally, Naganuma takes an unexpected turn in the last piece of the evening, Tower. Her dancers are clad in translucent earth tones with the ladies in black bra tops. They speak in a language unidentifiable to me, and seem to be worshipping, murmuring to one another, perhaps cautioning, perhaps urging each other on.  I’m not sure what this work has to do with the rest of the program, although it is, again, great to see these beautiful bodies.

Naganuma finds a gorgeous image to end the evening when Charly Wenzel, a small blonde woman, cradles the much larger Dwayne Brown in her arms.  He almost covers her with his body, but looks into her face for comfort which she gives, in small movements, as the lights fade.  Bravo!

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Official Dance Review by Meghan Frederick
Performance: Naganuma Dance Company
Choreography: Darcy Naganuma
Venue: Joyce SoHo, New York City
Show Date:  November 19, 2009
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