Contemporary dance times three
The Duke on 42nd St.
By Jennifer E. Wesnousky
July 24, 2004
The program for the presentation at the Duke on 42nd St. on the evening of July 24th described it as Contemporary dance times three. The evening featured three separate dance companies: DePersis & Dancers, Glory Dance NY and Nina Buisson's Contemporary Move as part of the 3rd Annual International Dance Festival-NYC, which was dedicated to providing both professional and non-professional dancers with a forum in which to present their work.
DePersis & Dancers
Artistic Director: Danielle DePersis Armstrong
Choreographers: Danielle DePersis Armstrong and dancers
Costumes: Timothy M. Lussier, Donna Grantham, Danielle DePersis-Armstrong.
Dancers: Danielle Armstrong, Stephanie Chikhaoui, Corey Geremia, Shelley K. Grantham, Kelly Hayes, Anna Jordan, Stephanie Love, Andie Rapavy, Jennifer Ruggiero, Bianca Stauffer, Tori Jane Taylor, Sarah Vacanti.
Consisting of four pieces, the DePersis and Dancers' performance conveyed moods rather than concrete stories. The first number, Bounce in 5, for example, featured young, fresh-faced nymphs who frolicked playfully and gracefully across the stage wearing the innocent dresses and hairstyles of little girls. This pleasant, fairytale-like environment was interrupted then by Relay, which felt like a sharp, surreal stakeout of the dancers' territory. Here, Artistic Director/Choreographer Danielle DePersis-Armstrong employed mechanical movement and the use of repetition to establish a more modern, almost space age aggression. The costumes, in contrast to the first piece, took a sleeker, sexier turn in fitted dresses in varying shades of purple in which, reminiscent of the girls of Robert Palmer fame, they looked Simply Irresistible.
Costumes did, in fact, contribute as effectively to the tone of the DePersis and Dancers' performance as did the choreography. Although there were different designers for each of the presentation's four numbers, they all had in common the manner in which the dancers' clothes were variations on a stylistic or color-coded theme, taking into account what was most individually flattering. Two or three different costumes were utilized within a single piece to compliment one another as well as the choreographic intention.
However, the costumes in La vida di una donna could be deemed a bit contradictory. Dedicated to Danielle DePersis-Armstrong's family to be, the piece obviously and creatively explored maternal instinct. And, yet it seemed that the women might more aptly have been dressed in black, for despite their apparent innocence, all appeared to be in mourning. The performers looked inquisitive and extremely forlorn, expressing finally their maternal need by lifting and rocking one another like babies.
While such facets of choreographer DePersis Armstrong's work were interesting, the dancers' execution felt at times self-conscious, as if they were afraid to take risks. All were obviously well-trained and had presence, and the company displayed definite potential. However, the audience was at times left feeling as if they wanted them to give just a little something more.
Glory Dance New York
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Hitomi Yoshimura
Costumes: Studio Fame in Tokyo and Hitomi Yoshimura
Dancers: Marcia Mann, Hitomi Yoshimura, Lisa and Tiffany Heggendorn, Reiko Ouchi, Tomomi Okada, Sarii Tamura, Motoko Jadano.
The collection of eleven pieces presented by Glory Dance New York contrasted images of young and old, good and evil and the supposed corruption of innocence brought by the passage of time. In the concluding piece which tied all of the performance's segments together, the lead character, a petite, older woman, seemed to grapple to reconcile these different forces at play during the different stages of her life as represented by different characters as well as by costumes ranging from angel to devil-like. While this was conceptually intriguing and the dancers were very present, the material often felt contrived and amateurish.
The highlight of Glory Dance was most definitely Reiko Ouchi's solo, Nature Woman, in which she played with playfulness while simultaneously exuding sensuality. As she performed rippling body rolls to Middle Eastern tinged music, her lithe, well-trained body could only be eclipsed by her shiningly likable demeanor onstage. Other numbers, such as Atoreando, felt less organic. Performed to Argentine tango music, the choreography explored such Latin dances as tango, bolero and flamenco on only the most superficial level while incorporating A Chorus Line-like manipulations of a top hat.
While Atoreando's soloist, Hitomi Yoshimura (also the Choreographer/Artistic Director), as well as Glory Dance New York's other performers were obviously technically proficient and dedicated to conveying the Artistic Director/Choreographer's vision, the vision itself felt disturbing. Although the ideas of lost innocence and moral ambiguity are interesting ones to explore, to mix such religious-tinged tunes as Ave Maria with a vixen-like persona who actually smoked on stage felt uncomfortably misplaced. And, the lead character's apparent reconciliation with her questionable past in Glory Dance's final scene was unfortunately not enough to reconcile this discomfort for the audience.
Nina Buisson's Contemporary Move
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Nina Buisson
Costumes: Nina Buisson, Maddy Kebedjis, Ayaka Ogane, Yelena Tishunova
Makeup artist: Berette Macaulay
Dancers: Kana Kimura, Alejandro Chavez, Anishka Clarke, Harmony Excellent, Elizabeth Feltman, Emi Fukuda, Rosario Ordonez Fuentes, Daryl Getman, Sarah Graham, Sarah Holmes, Nahiko Ishii, Yuki Kasagi, Maddy Kebedjis, Donna M. Mangubat, Stacey Menchel, Todd McQuade, Nathan Murray, Chie Oka, Megumi Omichi, Devin Pullins, Brenda Nieto Salgado, Megumi Shinagawa, Yoko Taketani.
By far the highlight of the evening, Nina Buisson's Contemporary Move was breathtaking to behold. Described in the program as "…combining the technique of Classical Ballet, dynamics of Contemporary dance, ethnic arts, and cultural rhythms to create a difference ambiance and atmosphere to choreography," each number appeared more choreographically innovative, technically well-executed and visually stunning than the last.
All of the company's eight pieces were uniquely unified along the theme of nature, ranging from tributes to such natural phenomena as water to flowers to savage beasts. Gorgeous apparel contributed to each piece's believability, the standout of the evening being a twelve-foot Mother Ginger-like skirt atop which, in Aquaria, a gorgeous water goddess perched. The colors shifted from blue and purple hues here to natural browns, oranges and greens to a bright crimson red for an African-inspired piece.
Just when one thought that all choreographic options had been exploited by someone at one time or another, Buisson seemed to have conceived never before seen angles and motion, filling every nuance of well-selected music varying between songs consisting primarily of nature's sound effects to more poppy, tribal tunes. Movement ranged from almost involuntary, as if the dancers were merely conduits for nature's expression, to Devin Pullin's astoundingly accurate portrayal of a catlike creature as he scurried about on his hands and knees, darting his head furtively.
Of course, Buisson's choreography could not have been pulled off were it not for the quality of the dancers. Each and every performer held his or her own, not only in terms of their blatantly professional caliber but in his or her unique beauty, physicality, originality and presence. And Buisson's unique use of lifts which occurred not only among the male-female pairs in the performance, but amongst male-male couples as well, showcased a lithe male flexibility seldom so apparent as it was among Contemporary Move's men.
Buisson's use of gravity-defying leans in pyramids which sometimes involved the entire cast at once convincingly brought to the stage natural elements from flowers to fire. Most impressively, the movement and the dancers never seemed strained, contrived or posed, but instead, like nature, continuously flowed and evolved.
All and all, Contemporary Dance Times Three made for an eclectic evening. Producer Suzy Zimmerman's admirable pursuit to present inspired amateurs alongside seasoned professionals thrust together artists and audiences who may never have been exposed to one another, to the benefit of all concerned.