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Seventh Annual 'Women/Create' Festival a Collaboration of Exceptional Talents

by Bonnie Rosenstock
June 20, 2018
New York Live Arts
219 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 691-6500
“It’s all about collaboration,” said choreographer Jennifer Muller, curator of the newly named Women/Create: A Festival of Dance, now in its seventh year. The festival brings together accomplished female choreographers and their companies to present an annual New York Season in a shared program for a week (June 12-16).

Muller is “the brains and energy behind it,” said choreographer Karole Armitage of the popular festival, which now counts four choreographers, each with her own voice point of view. They are Armitage Gone! Dance; Buglisi Dance Theatre;
Carolyn Dorfman Dance; and Jennifer Muller/The Works. “These are works that dance full out yet speak of both individual experiences and shared humanity,” said Muller. It was an exceptional evening.

Armitage’s “Donkey Jaw Bone” was an excerpt in preview, with full production premiering at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust on October 20. It is loosely based on Mexico’s theatrical sport, Lucha Libre (freestyle wrestling). It combines wrestling, dance, acrobatics and spectacle with ritual and parody, machismo and drag. The work consisted of six sections, with the music for each given in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The live music was performed on traditional pre-Columbian instruments— teponaztli (slit-log drum); jarana (guitar-like instrument); quijada (donkey jaw bone); hueheutl (upright wooden tubular drum); and ayoyotes (set of hard shells tied around the ankles to produce tinkling, rain-like sounds)—masterfully played by Juan Lucero and Peter Basil Bogdanos.

Wearing lucha libre masks with eye slits, the six dancers performed aggressive, complex movements with skill, precision and beauty. The two women (Megumi Eda and Sierra French) had a masterful, well-coordinated knock-down match. The men had their appropriately aggressive macho fights. There was also a men vs. women match. The finale featured a battle of the sexes in which the “winner” was a man who was helped into a glitter dress and women’s shoes and carried on the shoulders of the other dancers.

Muller, known for her autobiographical-infused works, said her “Shock Wave” (2018 World Premiere) was “my life this year and the lives of the nation.” It started off with the dancers leaving and reentering the stage several times with different partnering. There was an explosion, the lights flickered, dancers hit the floor, the music slowed down, they rise briefly, a feeling of sadness and sorrow, tumultuous events leading to emotional devastation, paraphrasing Muller. The nine dancers move together, break away, spread out, come back together, in search of healing to create a sense of community.

Jacqulyn Buglisi offered the remarkable “Threshold” (1991), with music by Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt and riveting performances by Virginie Mécène and Kevin Predmore. It opens with Mécène trapped inside a white cloth, which she struggles to escape, like a metamorphosing butterfly emerging from its completed chrysalis stage. First, her arms and legs emerge through a slit in the cloth, and then her beautiful body. For much of the dance, the muscular Predmore carries the lithe Mécène on his back, slowly crawling across the stage. For a time, with each movement he takes, he reaches out an opposite arm and leg. They create striking variations of entwinement, she underneath him, encircling him, on top, standing. At one point they separate, but are never far from each other. At the end, she returns to her cocoon and he crawls away, an exquisite meditation on the circle of life and death.

Carolyn Dorfman explored the multi-faceted meanings of “Waves” (2015), with the
10 dancers reacting to the musicians’ sounds, vibrations and tones and the musicians responding to the dancers’ movements. At first, one dancer, whose shadow looms on the back wall, responds with one movement per musical sound. The music and scat singing drive the dancer to move in fun and fast ways. The music and dancer go into slow mode. The full cast appeared. There are breath sounds as they lie on the floor. They move like sections of a multi-legged insect. They break apart, come together. There is a beautiful fast flowing three-couple duet. The entire company returns for magical movements. The commissioned music composition and recording are performed by Jessie Reagen Mann (cello, vocals), Daphna Mor (recorders, vocals) and Pete List (beat boxing, vocals, shahi baaja, which is an electronic Indian zither). It’s a blast.
Armitage Gone! in Karole Armitage's 'Donkey Jaw Bone' (2018). Dancer_Megumi Eda and musician Juan Lozero.

Armitage Gone! in Karole Armitage's "Donkey Jaw Bone" (2018). Dancer_Megumi Eda and musician Juan Lozero.

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Pisano


Armitage Gone! in Karole Armitage's 'Donkey Jaw Bone' (2018). Dancers Alonso Guzman, Yusaku Komori, Cristian Laverde-Koenig.

Armitage Gone! in Karole Armitage's "Donkey Jaw Bone" (2018). Dancers Alonso Guzman, Yusaku Komori, Cristian Laverde-Koenig.

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Pisano


Jacqulyn Buglisi's “Threshold” (1991).

Jacqulyn Buglisi's “Threshold” (1991).

Photo © & courtesy of Paul B. Goode


Carolyn Dorfman's “Waves” (2015).

Carolyn Dorfman's “Waves” (2015).

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Pisano


Jennifer Muller/The Works' Bo Pressly and Michael Tomlinson.

Jennifer Muller/The Works' Bo Pressly and Michael Tomlinson.

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Pisano


Jennifer Muller/The Works' Michael Tomlinson, Seiko Fujita and Alexandre Balmain.

Jennifer Muller/The Works' Michael Tomlinson, Seiko Fujita and Alexandre Balmain.

Photo © & courtesy of Stephen Pisano

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