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The Joyce SOHO Benefit Auction 2004 with a performance by nicholasleichterdance

by Robert Abrams
October 18, 2004
Joyce Soho
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10012

The Joyce SOHO Benefit Auction 2004 with a performance by nicholasleichterdance

held at the Joyce SOHO
155 Mercer Street
New York, NY

Robert Abrams
October 18, 2004

The Joyce Theatre Foundation put on a benefit for the Joyce SOHO that flowed with zest all evening. This benefit featured a silent auction with many quality items for a range of prices (one of which was donated by ExploreDance.com), a performance by nicholasleichterdance, a royally entertaining live auction, and a flavorful buffet dinner. The price per person was relatively inexpensive as New York City benefits go. The attendees definitely got, and gave, value.

The Joyce SOHO is a critical resource because it gives many modern dance companies quality rehearsal and performance space at very affordable rental rates, as well as serving as the base for many of the Joyce Theatre's education and outreach programs.

The highlight of the evening was a performance of an excerpt from Free the Angels by nicholasleichterdance.

This work, performed by Lauren Basco, Naima Bigby, Aaron Draper, Jared Kaplan, Nicholas Leichter and Khalda Logan, was set to the music of Stevie Wonder, with additional music by Alfredo Hidrovo, John McFaul and Jonathan Mele. Choreography was by Nicholas Leichter, lighting design was by Erik C. Bruce, sound design was by Stefan Jacobs, and costume design was by Olu-Orandava Mumford and Mindy Nelson. The music opened up with a driving beat that to a social dancer reads Hustle and West Coast Swing (predominantly Hustle, but some of us are infected with the Westie version of the dance virus and so we have no choice but to pick out the relevant musical strains where ever they may be present).

Sometimes, perhaps too often, performance dancers create choreographed works that pay only lip service to a root social dance discipline, disregarding the heart and spirit, the character, that makes the root dance appealing, or worse, ignores the rhythm. Thankfully, nicholasleichterdance did not fall into this trap.

nicholasleichterdance has created a modern dance work that is respectful of the Hustle rhythms, draws strength from the energetic, yet smooth and sensual Hustle spirit, and builds on this base with a modern dance movement vocabulary and the talent that only professional dancers who train all of the time can express. As a partner dancer who appreciates performance dance, I couldn't ask for a better, more tightly integrated performance. And this was only an excerpt.

The work started with a series of slow rhythmic caresses. The dance picked up energy to match the music and filled out with emphatic kicks in which each dancers' foot reached an upraised hand, textured groundwork, a moving group hug and transcendent lifts. The work even contained subsumed Afro-Brazilian movement. As if transcending the performance-partner dance dichotomy was not accomplishment enough, the work also managed to fuse authenticity and salon in a way that leaves one thinking "Argument, what argument?".

The Joyce Theatre is known for its intimate relationship between performance and audience. The Joyce SOHO brings that intimacy even closer. Seeing such a well choreographed and well danced work left me wanting to see the work in its entirety and to get back to the studio to take more lessons.

nicholasleichterdance and the Joyce SOHO benefit attendees' generosity reminded us that dance, even as it entertains, is about more than entertainment. If you believe in the exploration and development of culture through dance, the Joyce SOHO benefit is a good way to give back. If you were there, I suspect you will agree, and if you weren't there, please consider attending next year. I am just glad ExploreDance.com could be a part of it.

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