Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dance Review: Soaking WET at the West End Theater

Soaking Wet at West End Theater, Photography by Susanna Styron A refreshing variety of dances by emerging and experienced choreographers, Soaking WET brings downtown modern dance to the Upper West Side.

An ongoing series produced by David Parker and Jeffrey Kazin, Soaking WET presents shared-bill and single artist performances at the intimate West End Theater.  The current installment of Soaking WET showcases the work of Christopher Caines, Kelli Edwards, Marta Miller, Ainslinn Macmaster, Tiffany Mills, Kristi Spessard, and Katherine Longstreth, with special performances by Amber Sloan.

West End Theater, located on the second floor of the Church of St. Paul & St. Anthony, is the perfect size and space for the Soaking WET series.  The seating is limited to a few rows of raised pews, which offer a perfect view of formations and floor work.  Several columned archways serve as a dramatic backdrop to the curved stage area, and the walls extend a few stores high to a domed ceiling.  The program, curated by David Parker of David Parker and the Bang Group, reflects his company’s own sense of humor, musicality, and physicality.

Thursday night’s performance included the works Owe by Miller and MacMaster, LandFall by Mills, This is What We’re Doing Now by Edwards, and Suite from ARIAS by Caines.  The duet Owe, choreographed and performed by Marta Miller and Aislinn MacMaster, explores a complex and multi-faceted relationship between two women. Miller and MacMaster, who have been dancing together for over a decade, carefully craft vignettes that span a range of emotions and associations.  The dancers slow-dance, wrestle, embrace each other, and almost strangle each other, with precise movements and a strong sense of intent.

Real Friends, Real Pros, Real Dancers.... Only on iDANZ! Tiffany Mills’ LandFall is a powerful solo performed by Petra van Noort, who balances small isolations of her torso and wrists with large sweeping motions.  LandFall is the least narrative of the works in the program, and Mills creates a psychological landscape in which van Noort searches for herself and possibly a way out.

Kelli Edwards’ This is What We’re Doing Now is a strikingly sincere modern dance piece in which a trio of dancers- Johan de Besche, Irene Lutts, and Edwards herself- travel along a clear and satisfying choreographic arc.  The piece, set to various Lieder by Schubert, opens with the dancers taking a moment to quickly prepare themselves in plain view of the audience.  As they briefly adjust their costumes and nod to each, they set the tone of the piece; the audience enters into the dancers’ world, experiences the movement empathetically, and feels involved in the dancers’ story.  The dancers then whisk through a whimsical and musically sophisticated series of phrases.  Edwards combines constantly changing formations and cannons fluently and with ease.  The piece then transitions into a number of duets, during which the third dancer sits to the side and observes.  These duets are intimate and grounded.  The dancers move each other’s limbs, use each other’s weight, and at times simply support each other.  Although the dynamics and relationships between the dancers in the duets change throughout these partnering sections, Edwards maintains gentleness and inquisitiveness in the task-based movements.

The evening concluded with Christopher Caines Dance Company performing Suites from ARIAS.  Set at a cocktail party, the piece opens with dancers greeting each other cordially and clinking champagne glasses.  Caines’ mixture of waltz steps and pedestrian gestures with darker elements (two dancers stepping over the sprawled body of a third dancer comes to mind) is a bit confusing.  The audience would be more inclined to journey into abstraction with Caines’ dancers if the piece returns to the cocktail party narrative throughout the work.  Nonetheless, dancer Wendy Joy Reinert’s stunning performance showcases Caines’ musical sensibility and graceful phrases.

Be sure to check out the next installment of Soaking WET, which returns to the West End Theater May 13-16th with works by Deborah Lohse, Oan Spencer Bell, and Ben Munisteri. 

CLICK HERE & CONNECT with the Members of the iDANZ Critix Corner! iDANZ Critix Corner
Official Dance Review by Tze Chun
Performance:  Soaking WET
Venue:  West End Theater
Show Date:  January 21, 2010
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