Choreographer’s Showcase


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.

Ocean Trilogy


By Scott MacClelland

A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING, Fran Spector’s Ocean Trilogy, a collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, got its first complete outing at Spector’s studio in Marina on the weekend. It fills 40 minutes with videos (shot and curated by Spector media-partner William Roden) interspersed with original choreography, realized by a quartet of female dancers, and original rap lyrics and rhymes by Baba Brinkman. The program began with Cascading Failures, choreographed by guest artist Tracy Kofford and danced by a company of 16. Between it and Ocean Trilogy, Brinkman performed excerpts from his own “Rap Guide to Climate Chaos.” The program’s second half saw a reprise of East West, Spector’s powerful 50-minute work on gangs, gang-violence and the consequences that have so tragically impacted Monterey County.

Ocean Trilogy needs further editing. Of the three components mentioned above, none gives the piece the impact it wants and needs overall. Instead, it comes across as a string of pearls, vignettes that flatter one another but remain stubbornly in their own domains. Brinkman, who was/is also a major collaborator in East West, conveys ideas and perspectives on issues of major—in this case global—significance in a highly coherent, sparkling way, often running ahead while the last provocative thought is still being digested. The footage of MBARI scientists, notwithstanding a few short zingers, tends to bog down the pace with earnest appeals that beat upon the same drum over and over. The dance, executed by the quartet, wearing leotards of bright blue, dark blue, plum and emerald green with long yards of matching chiffon, represented the ocean in all its colors and turbulence—to my taste the best part of the show. There should have been more of it and, indeed, the real spine of the piece. All the rest would better be relegated to drop-in commentary.

By contrast, East West’s great success is its narrative arc, setting a context, then, by stages, playing out programmatically the contextual allure of gang culture, the choices it demands, its ‘rite of passage’ violence, its code of silence and loyalty, its devastation on families and friends, its brutal prison realities and, ultimately, its path of redemption. One could convincingly argue that such a passage is idealistic, “dramatic” in artificial terms. But who among us is so cynical that we cannot respond to hope in the face of hopelessness?

Credit here must equally go to the cast that created this masterpiece: dancer/athletes Jones Welsh Talmadge, Anne-Marie Talmadge, Donte Essien and Colton Sterling.

The music and sounds that accompanied these performances were from a variety of sources, none by itself either a motivating force or a standout presence per se, not unlike much of today’s movie music.

Cascading Failures, inspired by the 1964 Paul Harvey doomsday “If I Were the Devil” warning to America that has certainly come to full bloom in the Trump administration, made a vivid impression, even if its vocabulary of ‘rank and file’ and duos against ensemble was conventionally familiar. Yet I found it quite moving and look forward to seeing more of Kofford’s work