Choreographer’s Showcase

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By Scott MacClelland

NOW IN ITS 21ST SEASON, SpectorDance’s Choreographer’s Showcase returned to studios in Marina on the weekend with new works by eight choreographers. Take Arick Arzadon: this guy, a product of the Monterey Peninsula, is small in physical stature but ginormous in talent. (Above, he’s the center of attention in the Pacific Repertory production of The Pirates of Penzance.) He sings, writes songs, acts on stage, dances and choreographs. His bio says he’s been performing since elementary school. He co-choreographed West Side Story at Monterey High. He’s appeared in productions at PacRep, The Western Stage, Forest Theater and Monterey Peninsula College. He has studied ballet, jazz and modern dance with Deanna Ross and Walter White. At UC Irvine he collected more experience in the Claire Trevor Art Dance Dept. His stage roles have included The Artful Dodger, Zuko, Sonny (in TWS’ From the Heights) and Rodrigo (in Othello). Musically, he has worked with Fourty4B and the Jinxes.

For this show, he choreographed and sang (lip-synched?) Do You Know?, a hip-hop knock-off, mostly told in symmetrical patterns, that he danced with colleagues.

He also took a recurring solo role in “And All That Jazz” to music selected from the soundtrack of the hit-movie Chicago. With high-energy period choreography by Callie Dailey, Camrin Dannelly and Melissa Karasek, AKA The Carmel Delights Dance Company, it called on nine dancers, including the aforementioned. They and Arzadon, all Monterey-area talent, made a vividly eclectic impression.

Karasek, not a fragile flower, was irrepressible, as apparently she has been her entire life, with dance productions from elementary school through university, from Pacific Grove to Salinas, to San Jose and, now, a dance teacher at SpectorDance. Her “Man in the Mirror,” to the Michael Jackson song, was designed as a duo but in the Sunday afternoon performance, she danced it solo, explaining that her partner, Carissa Ratliff, had been sidelined by an injury.

Camrin Dannelly danced her own solo to Nina Simone’s haunting “Let It Be Me” with four easels and a chair as props. She too has been dancing since childhood and has choreographed many local dance company productions.

Jess Harper & Dancers, originally from St. Louis, was represented in the opening Time to Tang, a whimsical duo danced by Anthony Languren and Katelyn Martin, both wearing copiously long red skirts complemented by black tops. Their work evoked guffaws and giggles in the audience. They returned in the second half, now with Bailey Johnson, for …and it continues to a start-stop drum solo by John Carbone. Wearing brown, the dancers followed the soundtrack. Harper concocted a clever design that imitated—sort of—“The Twelve Days of Christmas” by starting different entrances with the same or similar gestures, though it wasn’t a slave to that trick.

When the guest choreographers introduced themselves at the start of the program, Mariah Steele, artistic director of Quicksilver Dance, now based in Oakland, explained that her piece, excerpted from the larger Children of Hobbes, was inspired by an infamous Thomas Hobbes ‘social contract’ quote in Leviathan, that “…the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short.” Four dancers, apparently representing adolescent girls, engaged in an often-sullen manipulation of one another. At 25-minutes, this was the longest piece of choreography on the program. Frankly, over-long. Further, it didn’t bear a clear connection to the chosen music. I got the intensity of it but struggled to find any real coherency.

Sarah Hardcastle, choreographer with Tracy Kofford’s Santa Barbara City College Dance Company, put on a stunner of a piece called Inside Myself. To music by the film composer Zbigniew Preisner, seven female dancers, wearing white gowns (petticoats?) with flaring skirts performed a ritual of symmetries and symbolism. They first appeared as six—three pairs—with the seventh concealed under the costumes only to later emerge like a menacing specter, a kind of solitary doppelganger. The troop remained vertical, only to fall dramatically to the floor.

The program ended with the same company, this time choreographed by Shelby Lynn Joyce, in aletheia, with eight women and three men forming groups, bigger and smaller, in symmetries and duos. The title means ‘not hidden.’ At just four minutes duration, this piece of graceful beauty could well have lasted twice as long.