Thursday, August 11, 2022

Dance Review: Mixtape- A Fresh Cut of Movement Vol. 2, Emerging Series Doesn’t Disappoint

Photography by Rachel Neville Nights of home-grown and self-curated choreography are nothing new; however they always manage to provide a slice of what’s current along with stand-out performances by their scarcely paid and loyal dancers.  Tonight at the Merce Cunningham studios, seven choreographers present their current twists on shrine-to-modern-dance choreography originally made famous by the founder of the Cunningham studios himself, experimentalist Merce Cunningham.

Maria opens the show with a double duet of red-hot partnering. The two women and two men are beautifully lit as they execute Urzua & Mercedez’s thoughtfully structured choreography.  The emotionality is stoked from within the movement with beautiful counterpart sections showcasing the talented and trained contemporary dancers.

In Surrender, Shani Worrell steps backwards to us as her actual voice is heard over tracks of her spoken word. “My body was designed by the voice of God for this exact moment.”  She lifts her head with careless hands tracing her face and hair.  Reaching and arching backwards, she slowly turns to reveal her swollen belly as her hand brushes down the sides of her hips.  Gently to the earth she steps on swollen ankles as the text describes the changes in a dancer’s body when they are almost “full term.”  The tenderness with which Worrell shows us the vulnerability and majesty of motherhood is overpowering.  Transitioning between slow, fast, African, and contemporary movement, the mother-to-be really woos the audience.

One of our hosts for the night, Eddie Stockton presents Inside Your Touch, a melodramatic trio where all are searching for the sensation of touch but cannot find it from or with each other.  Stockton employs pulsating bodies accenting the down-tempo beat under cool pools of light.  Their skin becomes electric with anticipation as they throw their backs into layouts while their hands either reach or grope their own bodies.  The rhythm is steady like a heavy heartbeat at 3 AM ,and I can hear “Break for Love” in the back of my head.

Real Friends 336 Just Getting There is Ursula Verduzco’s strange take on death – a contemporary ballet set to the soundtrack of Apocalyptica.  One dancer starts in white, running in circles as Jacob M. Warren (“Death”) with black accent face-paint slowly walks forward.  Warren is amazing in the role as his long frame articulates Verduzco’s concept.  “Death” partners the first dancer beautifully, as four women (“angels”) surround them, trying to contain this evil.  Ultimately, one is singled out to face the trial of her life as she and “death” struggle through beautiful partnering. The work takes a three-part musical structure that doesn’t quite work with the storyline, but rather creates an artificial motivation rather than something organically derived from the movement.  Surprisingly, the chosen one does not die, as Verduzco’s persistence against Warren’s hotness ultimately allows her to continue on the journey of life.

Kerry Shea gives perhaps the best performance of the night as a sprung timepiece in Alison Seidenstricker’s Clockwise.  The choreography is academic in structure and minimalistic in slow development of accumulated movements that vary every so slightly to conclusion.  Shea is so well rehearsed and committed to the movement that seeing her thin frame in profile with just one arm jutting out designating time becomes hypnotizing.  What is it about clocks as the first modern machines that draws us in?  Perhaps, it is Seidenstricker’s witty movement that doesn’t take itself too seriously captured flawlessly by the very talented Shea.

The excerpt, Flow Structure no. 1, creates a Dumbo-esque (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) mood that is akin to the scene where Sammy Davis Jr. lets it flow in The Rhythm of Life in DUMBO for the musical Sweet Charity.  The dancers maintain a steady rhythm that is as improvisational as water flowing.  Rather than taking a literal personification, Julia Y. Edwards works with more descriptive qualities such as weight.  Her flow is more like droplets running down the windshield of a parked car.  The dancers heads are heavy as their hands and ankles bend softly into the ground in poignant, abstract, and beautiful flow.

Sharon Wong creates beautiful chemistry in her duet Unmapped Territories with lyrics in French and English, where we hear that “water knows the secret of life and harbors subtle shades of pain.” Eddie Stockton and Kristin Licata create real emotions as the movement often puts their bodies on top of each other in creative partnering and evocative slow gesture.   As Wong doesn’t rush these lovers, Stockton lifts and returns Licata so slowly up and down that his shear strength and endurance is a testament to love itself.  The endearing choreography has depth with sensual embraces and overt sexuality.

In Hey little girl!  Where are you going? or Zavavy, Ursula Verduzco is anything but the helpless little girl but instead plays the coquettish damsel.  Benjamin Briones Ballet presents a brilliantly talented trio including Jacob M. Warren who’s full body flexibility and long classical lines are freakish in their perfection.  Adrian Silver is like a force of nature, turning classical movement from step to pantomime to balls-to-the-walls humor.  The audience can’t stop laughing from beginning to end as the guys’ bro-mance over bongo drums quickly turns to an all-out fight over the lovely Verduzco.  She performs her pointe work aptly despite the slick modern dance floor and noticeable lack of rosin on her toes.  Go BBB… this is a company with great storylines and hopefully staying power.

Mixtape is a delight and I look forward to the next installation!  A shout-out goes to Temisha Johnson for the well-paired lighting design that tied the show together.

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Official Dance Review by Sasha Deveaux
Performance:  Mixtape: A Fresh Cut of Movement Vol. 2
Curators: Eddie Stockton & Sarah Collins
Choreographers: Antonia Urzua and Juan Mercedez; Shani Worrell; Eddie Stockton; Ursula Verduzco; Alison Seidenstricker; Julia Y. Edwards, Sharon Wong, and Benjamin Briones (Benjamin Briones Ballet)
Venue: Merce Cunningham Studios
Date: Friday, November 13, 2009 @ 9:00pm
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