Choreographer’s Showcase

By Scott MacClelland

SPECTORDANCE hosted another ambitious Choreographer’s Showcase on the weekend at their studios in Marina. Eleven choreographers from all over California and one from Berlin presented their work. Several also danced in them.

In traditional fashion, and now in its 20th season, Fran Spector asked the choreographers to introduce themselves before the show began. In the same costume for her solo, Butterfly, Elisabeth Kindler-Abali, from Berlin but now living in Berkeley, made a vivid impression of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, with a simultaneous combination of elementz of omnislow, sinuous motion of her body and sharp jerks in her limbs and joints. Most of her piece was done in slow motion, but midway it became quite animated for a brief moment.

Her performance, lasting about seven minutes, came right after the longest piece of the program, The Beginning, by Elementz of Omni (pictured), two talented young CSU Monterey Bay hip-hop dancers who appeared in last summer’s Choreographer’s Showcase. Elton Domingue and Anthony “AJ” Ellis, who formed their duo only last year, brought their audience to laughter during both of their Spector appearances. These guys are dance sponges whose witty style is comprised of moves from just about every other contemporary dance movement you can think of, with roots in Michael Jackson. To dazzling effect, they play off each other, with black and white costume contrasts that are reflected in their dancing, and mime, and comedy. That includes a bunch of mirroring of gestures and bits in slow-mo. But to my eye, their style is also unique, in total good fun and continually creative within the complex music score they assembled. (Their reputation around the state is growing. You can see their work on YouTube.)

What followed Kindler-Abali’s performance was another highlight of the program, Mariah Steele’s Fledglings, a solo danced masterfully by Kristen Bell. Both designer and dancer displayed an extraordinarily high level of sophistication and professional technique. The piece perfectly fits with two movements from Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite, the joyful Prelude and the circumspect Air. Bell burst from the wings in exuberant spirits for the first part, smiling broadly and grandstanding unashamedly. She totally owned the piece, as she would do in Air, a mostly minor-key, inward-turning episode, to which she gave a wide range of expressivity.

Just ahead of Elementz of Omni’s The Beginning, Emily Kerr danced the comedic Dorset Garden by Milissa Payne Bradley, beginning with a large glass of water—deposited into the hand of an audience member, a commedia dell’arte costume strangely juxtaposed to a gloomy vocal chaconne by Henry Purcell, composed in England while the residents of Salem were hanging witches.

The program opened with About: FACE designed by Jeannine Charles and created here by seven female dancers, to an arrangement for three string instruments of the famous violin chaconne by JS Bach. The piece opened with two pairs of dancers opposite a solo. There were plenty of synchronized patterns, including triangles, and some startling effects, notably one dancer standing on the shoulders of another.

Charles’ A-Tension, in the second half of the program, was about conflict, with pushing, pulling and some faux kicking between the two men and two women dancers. The obviously pregnant Stephanie Harvey’s Transit(ional) Perspective explored the range of her emotions as she anticipates the big day. It was danced by five women, Angela Dice Nguyen as soloist opposite the ensemble.

Julie Mulvihill’s Grandma’s Attic was created by Brenda Solis and Rigoberto Torres, each alternately lifting one another. (They are about the same size and weight.) Synchronized patterns and calisthenics, rigorous almost to the point of tortuous, dealt with nostalgic memories of past relationships.

Mary Carbonara danced her own circumspect soon and briefly around and inside a ring of curtains laid on the floor, to Patti Griffins song Be Careful. Lissa Resnick’s Temptation, danced to Indian classical music, opened with a highly agitated solo by Nathan Ortiz that was only tamed with the voluptuously costumed appearance of Ellen Bigelow. Their ensuing duo carried the piece with sensual allure until, at last Ortiz withdrew to pray at a candle on a small table.

Tracy Kofford’s Intersecting Fugue ended the concert with a company of nine dancers wearing identical shifts, deployed alternately in full ensemble with largely synchronized patterns, and more personal breakout groupings.