Choreographer’s Showcase

By Scott MacClelland

Eleven California choreographers, professional and student dancers strutted their classy, expressive and sensual moves Sunday afternoon at SpectorDance in Marina, the town’s premiere performing arts venue.

The company’s student corps opened the matinee with Flocking, choreographed by Marika Brussel and inspired by birds flocking over Monterey Bay. The seven young ladies, grouped mostly in twos and threes, ‘flapped’ their wings up and down most gracefully. That short piece was followed by another, Erica Klein’s own Oh Darling, a solo of exceptional athleticism and physical expression. Klein is an ambitious high school senior who divides her time between Monterey and Los Angeles.

Lasting three timJenn_Oct13es as long, Coupling: Cycles 1-3, choreographed in 2013 by Jenn Logan (pictured), featured Katrina Amerine and Scot Tupper in a complicated love sequence, warmly together, in conflict, then reconciled again. (All three are members of the Nancy Evans Dance Theatre in Pasadena.)

Some of the students then joined the pros for Dawn, designed by Brussel to the music of Requiem by Lenny Tristano as played by the Ethel String Quartet. (The middle part of the music turned quite jazzy.) The company opened the ballet, which then gave rise to a substantial solo and finally a return of the group which put on a vivid show of hand gestures.

A startling highlight of the program was Matthew Nelson’s Stories of Guerilla Superheroes when, after a few minutes improvising, he began a narration that carried through the rest of the 12-minute piece. Remaining in constant restless motion he explained that he had exchanged his boyhood running with grownup dancing, which, like the running, he now did outdoors and in public. Obviously, he’s gotten very good at this. He calls it “guerilla dance practice” and tells his story in ecological terms. He called on the audience to doff shoes and join him, and 11 men, women, girls and boys did, some of the former well up in years, others of the latter budding dancers. (I believe he was also joined by his wife and little son.) As the floor filled up he invited the audience to be aware of the space, the size of it, the feel of it and, “if you get close to me, the smell of it.” He also admitted that he might be “trying too hard to be cool.” A fair amount of laughter also filled the space. And, in his narrative, he insisted that everyone read his daily blog out of Santa Barbara at www.guerilladance.org.

To the music of Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze, Jacqueline Cousineau danced her own The Meandering Meaning of Words, a dissonant start-stop, callisthenic conflict with the soothing music. The Salinas native now lives in France. Jahnna Biddle’s How Will I Know? used props (umbrella and two chairs) as she was joined by Alyssa Renard and Harley Thompson in ensembles and solos with lots of hand and arm gestures and a distinctive African-American style.

The second half opened with nine of the student dancers in Mads Ericksen’s largely rank and file Walk, Sleep, to chamber music by Antonín Dvořák. Ericksen comes from Ballet San Jose.

Mark Foehringer and Brian Fisher, of San Francisco’s Mark Foehringer Dance Project, were here for Foehringer’s Brevis in Longo, danced by Fisher and Marina Fukushima to Chassidic music for cello and piano by Ernest Bloch. Foehringer’s work is predictably graceful, fluid and sensual. Fisher made his lifts and carries look effortless.

Nancy Evans’ own Casualties—Duet Between The Wife & The Husband/Ghost, danced by Jenn Logan and Scot Tupper, was very moving. It’s the same idea explored in the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore movie Ghost, but here was inspired by Evans’ grandmother’s drawing in 1917 as she waited for her husband to return from the Great War of a century ago. In the piece, the couple dance in loving contact. When the ghost returns to the grieving widow, he circles her with love but she cannot see him and he cannotAmerine Beast touch her.

Katrina Amerine (right) was the predatory Beast of her own design, a hybrid cat/serpent of amazing flexibility, stalking prey but ever-mindful that it might itself be stalked. She was deliciously scary.

Jenn Logan then danced her own 8-minute Alter Ego with Jen Hunter, at first in strict imitation, then with physical conflict, a regular Doppelgänger encounter.

Brian Fisher’s Reflect/Refract, which ended the program, returned the Foehringer compliment in an even-more gorgeous duet, with Melissa Gomez and Thomas Woodman dancing to the slow-pulsed meditative music of Arvo Pärt.

Fran Spector, who avers that dance is about real life, is currently working on a large project with residents of Rancho Cielo called East-West which will premiere in October. I can’t wait.