Impressions of: ITE’s 2nd Annual Dance Festival
Supporting Dance from the Creative Spark to the Final Product
Presented by: Inception to Exhibition
Thursday, March 12th, 8pm
Featuring work by: Rocha Dance Theater, Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company, Sydney Schiff Dance Project, ChristinaNoel and The Creature and Stefanie Batten Bland
Inception to Exhibition’s 2nd Annual Dance Festival presents four diverse shows showcasing New York City’s finest contemporary concert dance. Thursday evening’s performance displays a decided contrast between work that makes use of interdisciplinary collaborations to enhance the overall experience and work that strips away external elements to highlight movement in its simplest form.
ChristinaNoel Reaves takes us to the depths of the jungle with her untitled new work, a series of physical duets that evoke animal mating rituals. The work opens with the subtle sound of breath echoing from offstage, which increases in volume and intensity until it coalesces into a chant. Reaves sprinkles theatrical elements into her work, but it is the raw, animalistic movement that speaks the loudest. Bold and unapologetic, the piece sometimes winks at its overt “fierceness.” In a humorous and shockingly blunt moment, a pair of dancers acknowledges the sexual undertone of their duet: “Wanna go fuck out on the fire-exit?” one asks.
Indeed, ChristinaNoel and the Creature are the “rulers of the jungle” as they won the Facebook contest to determine the audience’s favorite company, and as a result, they earned the opportunity to present an afternoon of dance on their own, produced by ITE.
Battledress (excerpt), choreographed by Rocha Dance Theater, is a confrontation between two identical figures as they seemingly determine who is the evil twin. Two women in white, frayed costumes and feathery white wigs resist each other, convulsing together on the floor as if being startled awake. Demonstrating impeccable synchronicity, they, in a stunning moment, perform a Matrix-like backbend, melting together to the floor.
Sydney Schiff Dance Project’s Imagined Architecture, true to its title, deals with the construction of the space, which is sculpted by three stationary musicians, a solo dancer, a revolving installation consisting of a breadbox and a mysterious and oddly shaped object covered by a loincloth, and audience members who rotate in hopes of glimpsing the action. In the ethereal beginning, a lovely figure clad in flowing white material performs a gestural solo on top of the breadbox; we sense she is on her soapbox, summoning our attention. As the piece progresses, its airy nature dissolves to become more grounded and pedestrian. “That was such an amazing brownie,” the harpist tells an audience member out of nowhere. What follows is a continuous chain of strange dialogue that is incongruous to the earlier tone. While Imagined Architecture makes use of assorted elements to transform the space and thus broaden the audience’s experience, it feels like collaboration simply for collaboration’s sake: The various pieces do not add up to a greater whole.
Mapping, Daniel Gwirtzman’s self-choreographed solo, differentiates itself with a lack of props, collaborators, or external distractions. A neutral white-noise soundscape and an all black costume allow the movement to speak for itself. What start as tense, balletic gestures dissolve into languid articulations.
Gwirtzman systematically isolates various body parts to create a constant contrast between gentle and aggressive; harsh, clenched fists segue into the soft descent of a cheekbone to meet the floor.
Stefanie Batten Bland's Germe, a self-choreographed solo and the crowd-pleasing closer, uses several skirts constructed of billowing white material. Immediately after she enters, a shadowy figure violently hurls this pile of material on top of her. The prop itself is fascinating; it envelopes her like a bed of feathers yet constrains her like a rope. Throughout her solo, the movement inside of Bland’s body never ceases though it relocates to different body parts as she writhes her long limbs through the material like a spider in a web. When she finally frees herself from her tangled prison, the figure returns and flings it back at her: the moment is comical, although I'm not sure that's how Bland intended it. The final, striking tableau features her colt-like body crumbled against a wall with the white fabric streaming behind her like a bridal gown.
Inception to Exhibition’s goal is to provide space for necessary interaction among artists of various disciplines in all stages of the creative process, from the initial spark of an idea through countless edits to a polished final product. This particular evening offers a wide spectrum of what contemporary dance can be, from an art form that speaks boldly on its own to a building block in an even greater collaboration amongst disciplines. While there are countless dance festivals offering a grab bag of pieces, it is rare to experience a festival where all the choreographers have clearly dedicated themselves to the creative process.