Choreographer’s Showcase, July 31

By Scott MacClellandSpector

A NEW BATCH of choreography, some of it wonderfully clear of message, went on display over the weekend at SpectorDance in Marina. The Sunday matinee, which I attended, included two works not seen the previous evening. The first was Yun, a solo creation danced without music by Yao Dang, originally from Beijing but now a Californian. Here, she was in constant fluid motion, slowing her pace rarely to allow the audience to absorb her personal intensity. By way of form, she singled out a few gestures for repetition. The second, Tale of a Hummingbird, described as a preview, was of equally high energy. It too was danced by its choreographer, Angela Dice Nguyen, plus Stephen DiBiase and Dalmacio Payomo. Calisthenics, including fast running and other physical working out took the breath away. At times the dancing was solo, then duos and ensemble. At one moment, Nguyen stood motionless but fluttering her hands like a hovering hummingbird. Otherwise, the “Tale” was not clearly communicated.

The program opened with Beneath the Stories We Wear by Claire Calalo of For Change Dance Collective. Hat props gave the small ensemble—a smaller number than announced in the program handout—their organizing touchstones. Calalo danced among them but there was no bio about her. Music by Joseph Colombo included a song sung in Spanish. Calalo deployed her material between mostly duos and the full ensemble. You had to take it as individually personal work to pin down the narrative thread.

In January, Terronique Brown brought her company to Marina for No Man, a serious work inspired by the famous John Donne poem. For this program she presented four women from her LIV Dance Collective in an angry piece called Speechless (spelled with symbols as in a dictionary pronunciation guide.) The quartet in black costume, appeared in geometric formation in a pool of white light, heads turned down and one arm pointing straight up. Soon it became obvious their mouths had been taped shut. The ‘music’ was unintelligible recorded whispering but not before the women stripped off the tape and began muttering phrases to one another, like ‘carry it with me’ and ‘again and again.’ These were accusations and confrontations with dance underscoring the theme. If anything, dance seemed to take a secondary role here. At last the four faced the audience up close and shouted “Who speaks for you?”

With a background in classical ballet, Robert Burns Lowman partnered with Alexis Leigh Krup in Patient, a tender loving scene of the two wearing hospital gowns. Sleeves and then the gowns themselves came off revealing costumes depicting the layer of muscle beneath the skin, as if the pair had suffered worse than third-degree burns all over. The juxtaposition of the gruesome and of mutual caring, performed with such elegance, left an indelible impression.

Comedy, much of it laugh-out-loud, followed tragedy in Omnination by Elton Domingue and Anthony Ellis, one dressed all in black, the other all in white, with matching hats. Hip-hop and R&B provided the music and flashes of ‘lightning’ gave this duo the ‘set’ for their mirror-imaging, ‘pounding’ and ‘reinflating’ each other, break dancing, pantomime and other shtick. Bravo!

These first four numbers all lasted about ten minutes. Four student members of SpectorDance, girls aged 10 to 13 (the youngest and oldest, sisters) danced Jade Clayton’s Divertimento to the first movement of Mozart’s Serenade K136. Five girls later danced Hide and Seek by Marika Brussel to waltzing music in ¾ time. The Goren sisters, Rachel and Becca—I wrongly thought they were twins—danced to Rachel’s No Need to Say Goodbye, and the song Call by Regina Spektor. They, and other SpectorDance girls appeared in a reprise presentation of Fran Spector’s own Degas’s Rainbow, the longest piece of the afternoon, inspired by the paintings and sculptures of dancers by the great French artist, a real celebration.

The second half of the program opened with a short film, Story of Two, designed and danced by Jee Eun Ahn and Traci Klein, to moaning music, Camino, by Murcof. Paper figured prominently here, wrapping and unwrapping the dancers who memorably seemed to be pushed and pulled by invisible forces. An excerpt from Deborah Slater’s Line of Beauty was danced by Anna Greenberg and Derek Harris. She brashly took the entire first part to Lori B’s ribald waltz song Welcome to My Planet. He then expressed great pain and anguish to a keyboard invention by JS Bach. In the third part, to music of Fred Frith, his suffering aroused sympathy in her and the two danced together.

In my view, the best work of the day was Nested Memories by Rachel Lopez, in collaboration with her dancers, who were heard in a recording recalling their earliest memories. As the lights came up all eleven dancers were seen woven into a nest. As one of the recorded voices stood out, its dancer stood up in the nest. As the nest got looser some were singled out for cameos and solos. Only two of the company on stage were men and they indeed got lengthy solos. This was this one of most coherent choreographic designs I have seen, its narrative always clear and strong, and the music a perfect complement: Playground by Andy Smith, Tragos Amargos by Ramon Ayala, and an old Russian lullaby sung by a solo female voice.

Photo: Fran Spector Atkins (sixth from right) introduces her guest choreographers