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Dance New Amsterdam: In The Company of Men

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 27, 2009
Dance New Amsterdam
280 Broadway, 2nd floor
(Entrance on Chambers Street)
New York, NY 10007
(212) 625-8369
Thursday, June 4 @ 8 pm. Reception @ 7 pm.
Friday and Saturday, June 5 and 6, @ 8 pm. Followed by Late Nite @ DNA, "Male Room," for burlesque meets drag @ 10 pm. $10 + free drink, or $5 with ICOM ticket, any performance.
Sunday, June 7 @ 3 pm.
Tickets: $20; $15 DNA members; $17 students
Dance New Amsterdam's "In the Company of Men" (ICOM) dance series began in 1994 as a response to the AIDS epidemic that was decimating the dance world's male choreographic voices. Since then, the series has broadened its focus to explore themes of maleness in all its variegated complexities. On Wednesday, May 27, DNA offered two free half-hour previews of ICOM's upcoming program with Q&A, one at 12:15 in DNA's dance gallery surrounded by Quinn Batson's ebullient large-sized black and white photos on silver paper, 280 Broadway, followed by a dash uptown to the Capezio Dance Theater, 1650 Broadway at 51st Street for a 2:30 show. Each choreographer presented a three- to five-minute excerpt. The full one-and-a-half hour program, all world premieres, will take place in DNA's cozy theater space from June 4 to June 7.

A sneak preview of the five works revealed a rich texture of choreographic visions and themes. To begin with, Israeli-born Idan Cohen performed a snippet of his three-part short solos, "3 pieced swan, op. 1." The bird-like gestures were inspired by Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Cohen's staccato, quick and sharp writhing and contortions on the floor defined his attempt to investigate personality and identity. "Whether I've committed a crime against my gender, my kibbutz background, my national identity or against anything else, when I understand what is unacceptable, I can leave the question of why it is unacceptable and become what might be seen as a hybridization of a man and a creature called a swan," he said.

Choreographer Courtney Ffrench's "Fight or Flight" was performed by two of the three dancers, Ariel Polanco and Juan Espinosa. While Espinosa performed fast movements, Ariel sat. When Espinosa slowed down his movements, Polanco began a fast sequence. Dressed in black, with furrowed brows, they embodied suspicion and caution within movements of grace and certitude. Espinosa explained to me that his character is supposed to be a victim, and he is deciding whether to fight or flee. He eventually decides to fight against whatever is holding him back. The three dancers will represent three different walks of life, and the costuming will help define who they are. Ffrench, who is not only a choreographer and dancer, but also a public school math teacher, uses the music of Public Enemy, "when rap was about something," he said, like social issues, drug issues, fatherhood (Ffrench's wife just had a baby), government, war and taxes. "Here is something I can dive into."

"Remember the shiny light from the forest of the tall trees," chorography by Erick Montes, danced by Mark Schmidt and John Zullo (the full piece is a quartet) explores "the calm and stillness and crazy tumultuousness of everyday life," said Schmidt. The two silent solos were strong, flowing and lovely.

Award-winning choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer was not able to attend, but his solo video presentation spoke brilliantly to his versatility and uniqueness. "GPS (Ground Positioning System)" is inspired by the Global Positioning System (GPS). In the split screen – upper half as blue as the sky and lower half as white as a cloud field – Bokaer hovers between the two, using his long languid legs in countless positions in his quest to define the relationship between his body and digital forms. The live onstage performance will take place within a structure I was told. Can't wait to see that.

Finally, Paul Singh's solo is both an internal and external conversation with himself and the audience. "Privy" uses a recording of Singh's voice, which he talks to, talks with and talks over. "I'd like to get to know me better," he said. With his large expressive eyes, visage and compelling movements which have to have meaning, he declared, we would like to know him better, too.
Idan Cohen

Idan Cohen

Photo © & courtesy of Oren Mantzura


Paul Singh

Paul Singh

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber

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