Archive for July, 2014

Izabela Chlewinska -Tralfamadoria- photo Katarzyna Madzia+éa0

Izabela Chlewińska in Tralfamadoria

By Merilyn Jackson

For the Inquirer


Posted Sept. 16, 2012

Three Polish dancers made their American debuts Friday evening at the modest Mascher Space up on Cecil B. Moore Ave. Though their paths have crossed in Poland and two have worked with each other in the past, their movement esthetics diverge except for the fact that each uses sound/music very minimally, if at all. Izabela Chlewińska lives and works in Warsaw, but has also performed in Germany, Mexico and Japan. In a doll-like little white dress, she writes out the story of her concept on an easel filled with large sheets of paper. She takes us to the land of Tralfamadoria, a riff on Kurt Vonnegut’s work (which was very popular in Poland) in that her work is non-linear, episodic and elliptical. It’s when she strips to her body stocking that we see what an original mover, even a contortionist, she is. In the Zoo section, she takes to the floor in an exquisitely high back-bend, head facing us and scuttles crab-like from side to side. She strikes sharply angled poses, bent-elbowed arms splayed out along her body while her chest and torso rise pointing to the ceiling or lies on her side like an odalisque or such as you might see when a leopard is in repose. Finally, she dedicates the dance to her father. But why? Did he introduce her to Tralfamadoria? Is this a remnant of a childhood memory lived just before the bizarre life lived under Communism dissolved? Maybe nothing of the sort, but I love works that raise more questions than they can answer.

Marysia Stokłosa’s Vacuum didn’t spare us from questions either. Wielding a vintage Electrolux canister vac (I had a similar one for many years), she literally swept the entire large space with it, criss-crossing from right to left, even insinuating it under the feet of the people in the front row. She re-covered the entire space from front to back running in reverse, so I thought, probably incongruously, of a warp and weft imaginary weaving of the space into one large fabric for her to dance upon. Lest you think this sounds too serious, Stokłosa disappears into a side restroom and runs the shower returning to us in a bathing suit the same vintage as the vacuum cleaner, and sopping wet, belly flops on the floor, flinging and flopping like a fish out of water. To Chopin, she dries her hair with the vacuum. Hah! Is she saying it’s time for Poland to wash that fusty romantic self-image away? I hope so, but that’s just me.

Each dance seemed born of a big idea realized with an economy of movement and a great take-it-or-leave-it confidence including the final work, Le Pas Jacques. By Magda Jędra, who is co-founder of Good Girl Killer in Gdansk, she starts with both feet planted on the floor while she scoops and swoops the air with her arms. She pulls a Babci shawl from a nearby paper bag and ties her ankles together with it, her wrists with another piece of clothing and then bruisingly jumps around, falling often until she loosens her bonds. I had to leave for another show so I regrettably couldn’t stay to see the rest. But I ran into her at the supermarket today and she had cabbages in her cart for tonight’s show. So, Kapusta anyone?

$15 Mascher Space, 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave. tonight and Sunday night, 8 p.m.


Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014, 3:01 AM








Choreographer Niki Cousineau and the shadow of her designer husband Jorge Cousineau

Watching and reviewing Niki Cousineau’s choreography and dance for more than 15 years, I have noted a certain delicacy, even reticence, coming through. She’s not a flashy, over-the-top mover, but allows her intellect and commitment to craft to put her dance theater work over.

It helps that in 1996 she hooked up with the precision-minded Jorge Cousineau, an award-winning set, lighting, and sound designer. As the duo that has constituted Subcircle since 1997, they unveiled their latest work Thursday at the Performance Garage for a weekend run that ends Saturday night.

Their title is “All this happened, more or less,” the opening line of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, which centers on the World War II firebombing of Dresden, Germany, Jorge’s birthplace. His set consists of crazily tilted white structures that could be from a Fritz Lang film. The dancers easily break them down and realign them, or make them explode into the rafters.

Jorge made his performance debut dancing with wife Niki. He moves quite naturally, if a bit shyly, in this piece that serves as a retrospective of their work, life, and love together. The other dancers – Christy Lee, Scott McPheeters, Christina Zani – had each performed with Subcircle, and helped move the memories along by calling out the years as they danced.

The Cousineaus opened in silence with sign language, later ending with little arabesques. Sections were taken from shows such as 2000’s “Banking Hours,” and 2002’s “ADA,” the inaugural show at the Performance Garage. Much of the movement, once in full swing, had elbows jutting back and other angular moves echoing the architecture of the set.

Rosie Langabeer’s guitar chords warmed the atmosphere, and Jorge’s video projections, live and taped, enlivened the white set, falling on the structures and screen backdrops. Fast-forward to 2048, and they “draw” each other’s outlines on a screen with a projector. Niki draws water through them, dissolving their outlines in mist. As Jorge quotes Vonnegut: “So it goes.”

Slam dunks from Philadanco

Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: Saturday, April 19, 2014, 1:08 AM




Adryan Moorefield and Janine Beckles of Philadanco.

The program included a mix of newer and older pieces.
To a packed house, Philadanco brought back Donald Byrd’s 1995 BAMM at its spring offering at the Kimmel’s Perelman Theater Thursday night. I first saw it in 2004 with the now-retired force of nature Odara Jabali-Nash as the center of its centrifugal force. This time, six dancers revolve around veteran company dancer Roxanne Lyst like numbers on a spinning clock.

The missing hands of this no-tick-tock clock are Mio Morales’ quick-pulsed percussive score, which ultimately hurls the dancers from the circle and into various patterns around the stage. The men walked off and on stage ramrod-stiff, almost militaristic. But the spitfire Lyst remains in control, leading the others through Africanized, hunched-over skipping. Their fists pumped to the floor, pushing their shoulders up in synchronized rhythms.

It was such a sweet surprise when many of the same dancers came out next in Gene Hill Sagan’s ballet Suite en Bleu, to the music of Handel and Bach, which, with its metronomic formalisms, mirrored Morales’ score. Lyst, Rosita Adamo, and Janine Beckles, in soft hyacinth-blue gowns and ballet slippers, flared out their skirts in their tours, Tommie-Waheed Evans, Dwayne Cook Jr., and even the towering Adryan Moorefield lifting them joyfully as if they were flowers.

The company premiere of Ulysses Dove’s 1984 Bad Blood, to Laurie Anderson’s “Gravity’s Angel” and “Walking and Falling” and Peter Gabriel’s “Excellent Birds,” seemed a little off-kilter on opening night. This normally sure-footed company did not yet have the piece in its belly, where they need it. It is a furiously brutal work about the search for connection through physical impact. I could see Beckles cross herself before running out from the wings to throw her spread-eagled legs around one of the men who had to take her impact without faltering. I have no doubt they will ultimately devour the piece with their typical fierceness.

That hunched-over Africanist skip returned in Rennie Harris’ 2007 Philadelphia Experiment, only this time as a ghost of itself, haunting us from the centuries of slavery where even the muscle memory diminishes. Evans ferociously spurred the full company through its paces past Philly’s darker moments – shown in a video collage by John Abner – to embrace the joy and fulfillment that hip-hop and dance bring to many of us in Harris’ paean to our city. With so many slam dunks throughout the show, I wanted to jump up and shout: BOOMSHAKALAKA!


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