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Gibney Dance Company's “EMERGE” Showcases Three Thrilling Choreographers

by Bonnie Rosenstock
May 9, 2019
Gibney Dance Lower Manhattan
280 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
(646) 837-6809
The 2019 EMERGE program, a platform for emerging choreographers to create new works on the Gibney Dance Company (GDC), presented three world premieres by three world-class choreographers (May 2-4). It featured duets by New York-City based Chanel DaSilva and Bobbi Jene Smith and a trio by the inaugural GDC/Springboard EMERGE Choreographic Award Winner, Los-Angeles-based Micaela Taylor. (GDC has partnered with Springboard Danse Montréal.) They were all award winners.

Smith, formerly of the Batsheva Dance Company (2005-2014), was the subject of the 2017 award-winning documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Bobbi Jene,” about her difficult decision to return to America to kick start her career as a solo performer and choreographer (click here to read ExploreDance's review of the film). From the stirring “Francesca and Connie,” it seems she has made the right decision. The piece was inspired by the posthumous work of two tragic figures: photographer Francesca Woodman best known for her black-and-white self-portraits, who committed suicide at age 22, and singer/songwriter/ musician Connie Converse, who disappeared without a trace of her own accord in 1974 at age 50.

Performed by the amazing Zui Gomez and Leal Zielínska, they are two discrete solos of elegant beauty that give voice to these women artists and reflect Smith’s distinctive style, i.e., the pelvic region is hard at work and there is deep emotional content.

The first solo, performed by Gomez, featured sidestepping toes and banging them hard on the floor and slow movements evolving into shakes. The second solo by Zielínska, a former dancer with Sidra Bell Dance New York, featured twisty walks and forward bends that evolved into throwing herself onto the floor repeatedly. The two dances were respectively accompanied by “Kyema” (Intermediate States), composed by electronic music pioneer Eliane Radigue, and Maurice Ravel’s slow piano solo, “Pavane pour une infante défunte, M. 19 (Live)” (translation: Pavane for a dead princess).

Next, DaSilva’s “Swept” was a powerful duet danced by Nigel Campbell and Zielínska that dissected a relationship, from the heady days of falling in love to its heartbreaking dissolution, accompanied by the stirring music of three African composers. Campbell entered holding onto his partner’s ankles. The first part featured fast, playful and joyful movements as the two performed in sync. Later, the duet became more emotional. They hug, he lies within her legs, they nestle, they (gesture) think. The dance is about resistance. At the end, Zielínska holds onto Campbell's ankles. Campbell was very good, but the shining star was Dance Magazine 2019 "25 to Watch" issue cover girl Zielínska, who was featured in all three pieces. She is a marvel to watch. Not only was she an incredible physical performer, but also her emotional intelligence and expressiveness were formidable.

In an after-show talk (Smith was unable to attend), DaSilva explained her process. “I wanted to highlight the duality of that word ‘Swept’—being swept off your feet and then swept up and discarded and over it—by doing the duet twice, where Nigel and Leal switched roles at the end because I didn’t want to decide a victim. Now that I’m 33, I realized that we all have faults in however the relationship unravels. I feel that ‘Swept’ was a journal entry to where I am in my life right now, human connection, relationship [with] my perspective.”

In the deservedly award-winning "Eyesow,” Gomez, Zielínska and Gigi Todisco expertly and comically lip-synced and mimed to excerpts of Beyoncé’s “Party.” It was followed by a lot of quick, sharp and stop-start-stop movements. The next section had deftly performed dance, spoken word and gestures, followed by a rousing finale to “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and Chaka Khan.

In discussing her work, Taylor said, “Being a Millennial, growing up in the tech era and realizing we’re inundated with so much content and information every day, we can be isolated for long hours. I think because of that, I wanted to really explore what that means physically. I felt that because of all of the quick movement, the fast-paced society and the things that we’re inundated with, when we’re alone, we’re not really alone.

“I wanted to highlight that in the space we see these three bodies come together, but they’re not really coming together in peace and harmony. They’re coming together physically but they’re not necessarily unified. There is a synergy, a common desire, a common thread, but they haven’t quite felt that they’ve met that desire. They are in in this limbo yearning for connection and also being content with disconnection.”
Leal Zieli?ska in Bobbi Jene Smith's 'Francesca and Connie'.

Leal Zieli?ska in Bobbi Jene Smith's "Francesca and Connie".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw


Zui Gomez and Leal Zieli?ska in Bobbi Jene Smith's 'Francesca and Connie'.

Zui Gomez and Leal Zieli?ska in Bobbi Jene Smith's "Francesca and Connie".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw


Nigel Campbell and Leal Zieli?ska in Chanel DaSilva's 'SWEPT'.

Nigel Campbell and Leal Zieli?ska in Chanel DaSilva's "SWEPT".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw


Nigel Campbell and Leal Zieli?ska in Chanel DaSilva's 'SWEPT'.

Nigel Campbell and Leal Zieli?ska in Chanel DaSilva's "SWEPT".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw


Gigi Todisco, Leal Zieli?ska, and Zui Gomez (L-R) in Micaela Taylor's 'EYESOW'.

Gigi Todisco, Leal Zieli?ska, and Zui Gomez (L-R) in Micaela Taylor's "EYESOW".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw


Gigi Todisco, Leal Zieli?ska, and Zui Gomez (L-R) in Micaela Taylor's 'EYESOW'.

Gigi Todisco, Leal Zieli?ska, and Zui Gomez (L-R) in Micaela Taylor's "EYESOW".

Photo © & courtesy of Scott Shaw

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