Archive for July 22nd, 2011

Posted on Thu, Jun. 23, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer


Performing “Chinnamasta: The Parts and the Whole” are (from left) Lesya Popil, Hedy Wyland, and Marie Brown.

Philadelphia’s dancers have built a community that’s the envy of other cities around the country. A Washington City Paper article last month cited Headlong Dance Theater as a ringleader, quoting one of its founders, David Brick, as saying, “You have to figure out how to do things on your own.” Sometimes that requires contorting into unlikely partnerships such as the one between Headlong, another long-established dance group, Group Motion, and Viji Rao’s newer Three Aksha. Their show, called “Sam-Gam BAM!”, opened at Drexel’s Mandell Theater last weekend and continues Thursday through Saturday.

Headlong is the postmodern, hipster/brainy dance company that relocated in Philadelphia from Wesleyan University in the early 1990s; German expressionist Group Motion had arrived from Berlin back in 1968. Traditional Indian dance company Three Aksha’s been around for the better part of the last decade.

“Sam-gam” – Sanskrit for “flow together” – is the title and overarching theme of the new works presented by the three companies, whose flowing together was pure serendipity.

“Group Motion had reserved the Mandell for two weekends,” said company director Manfred Fischbeck, “and since Headlong and Three Aksha inquired about the Mandell for the same dates, it made sense to join forces with the support of the Dance UP rental subsidy program.”

Headlong’s world premiere, I cannot tell you how to watch this, is actually an amusing primer on how to watch it, featuring Lorin Lyle as a referee and several dancers who form Headlong’s new ensemble springing off and melting into one another, contact-improv style. Headlong’s Amy Smith soloed in a classical Bharatanatyam dance taught to her by Rao, to jazz and country music. It was wonderfully quirky at first, though the quirk didn’t outlast the conceit, especially as a solo on a large proscenium stage.

Rao led her group of seven women in Uurja, expressing Bharatanatyam’s nine emotions with live music and vocals. They later danced a more contemporary theatrical work, Faces Behind the Mask, in which four masked couples represent ordinary life situations.

After reprising a luminous 2003 work by Japanese choreographer Kenshi Nohmi, Group Motion provided the strongest work on the program. With an electronic score by Andrea Clearfield and live music performed by Tim Motzer, Thomas Wave and Fischbeck, the world premiere called Chinnamasta – The Parts and the Whole drew on the legend of the Hindu goddess who is self-decapitated. Text by poet and dancer/choreographer Jaamil Kosoko provided chilling monologues about greed, compassion, and sex.

With a video installation by John Luna projected onto billowy rectangles of plastic dropped from the fly, and a full complement of Group Motion dancers and guests, the piece had the sense of spectacle the concept called for. Bathed in golden light by lighting designer Matt Sharp, the group writhed behind the semi-opaque sheeting in an erotic and mystical tangle.

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Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2011

By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

                                                                                                                              ALEXANDER IZILIAEV

Barry Kerollis and Chloe Horne dancing in BalettX’s performance of Amy Seiwert’s “It’s Not a Cry.”

Two impressive world premieres by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa set BalletX’s summer season ablaze at the Wilma Theater on Wednesday evening.

Ochoa has choreographed for the company before, and Laura Feig and Adam Hundt danced her Bare with charming tenderness. In ordinary underwear, they languidly spill over each other, entwining and uncoupling as if drowsy with morning love.

Duets perpetually serve as studies of coupledom, and Amy Seiwert’s It’s Not a Cry explores the couple over the long haul. To Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s hallowed anthem to love gone bitter, “Hallelujah,” Chloe Horne and Barry Kerollis appear in separate spotlights. If Kerollis pulls Horne along in a slide, she convulses in mid-glide and twists off in the other direction. It seems they’ll never make it work. Yet by the final iteration of “Hallelujah,” the two are coiled together, bathed in a single pool of light.

A Soliloquy Among Many, by Roger C. Jeffrey, opened the evening with costumes by Loris Doran that evoked a medieval theme – monk-brown skirts, flat suede boots. The group sections looked crowded at times, but Horne, as the lead, drew me in with her lissome solo.

En Dedans, a short film by Gabrielle Lamb, served as an entr’acte. Voice-overs reveal the individual thoughts of the company’s dancers in rehearsal, making apparent the hardships, pain, and doubt artists endure to bring us the pleasure of their company.

But it was Ochoa’s morbidly sad, yet freakishly beautiful Castrati that ended the program with an unexpected concept – a study of the “last seven castrati” who endured being maimed for life in order to acquire voices that could range over three octaves.

Along with Colby Damon, Jesse Sani, and Hundt, Ochoa smartly used four female dancers whose long, smooth limbs resemble those developed by boys after prepubescent castration.

Avid Arik Herman’s golden masks and marquisette and faux brocade costumes recalled the foppery and excess of the era. Music by Friedrich Handel and David van Bouwel wrapped this gorgeous lot in the high-pitched voice that sounds as dismembered as the body. Various tics and exaggeratedly grotesque gestures expressed how damaged these performers were. Damon’s overly courteous bows drew laughter. Hundt, extracting his voice from his yawning mouth as if it were a long silken scarf, drew pity. Tara Keating, lying leopard-like off to the side, surveyed the audience as if all this were our fault.


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