Impressions of Soaking WET February 2015
Sunday Matinee in Church
This Sunday I went to church on the upper west side of Manhattan, not for a sermon, but as an audience member at Jeffrey Kazin and David Parker’s Soaking WET Series. In addition to their brilliant career as performers, and to the witty, rhythmic theatricality of their Bang Group, the two artists present this performance festival- now in its 30th season- to remind us, that experimentation and exploration in dance aren’t just arty concepts for an elite set of professionals.
The humble West End Theater on the 2nd floor of Church of St. Paul & St. Anthony is exceedingly dark as I enter, save for a semi-circle of grey flooring occupied by dancers who casually roll and stretch. It doesn’t make any fancy promises. But once the lights come on, designed by the masterful Jay Ryan, the world transforms.
Johanna LijungQuvist-Brinson’s skillful patterns in Equus bring out the best in her young Hanna Q Dance Company. She challenges her dancers lines to be elegant and their musicality to be sensitive, as they impress us with their enthusiasm and lightness in the air. There’s lots of promise here.
Tina Croll, one of the original founders of Dance Theater Workshop, and an inspiring prolific artist, shares an excerpt of her Ancient Springs danced by a talented cast of women whose searching and stomping boldly imprint the space.
The intrigue of Cadence, Jennifer Edward’s duet for Kristen Bell and Callie Ritter, is present at opening lights. Poured into grey mini- dresses with matching braided hair, the dancers begin facing each other, Bell with her back to us. Are they mirror images, sisters, lovers, or two parts of a whole? Darting arms, nuanced gazes, and jewel-like articulations of the upper body —even wrists and fingers — provoke fascination as the two echo and respond to one another against the absorbing sound score by Soraya Odishoo.
Don’t Lean On Me Man, created without musical accompaniment, by recent Columbia graduate, (and full disclosure, Dance Enthusiast correspondent) Garnet Henderson, is the picture of ease and no-nonsense eloquence. Henderson and Rebecca Hadley move expertly. We savor the choreographic language as it shifts from conversations of falling weight, to those of spritely steps, to those of directional zig zags,and so on — feels refreshing.
Racy Brand, (great name), who begins the days mixed-bill, stands upside down on her hands, raven curls cascading to the floor, perfectly proportioned body in a tight black swimsuit. Her angelic face gazes out at us as Martha Wainright’s throaty voice crows “I want to stand like a man,” or something close to that— lyrics from Wainright’s song “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.” Brand dives into deadpan irony pairing curious soundtracks with unlikely movement situations. As she creates her tenuous worlds before our eyes, we can’t help but root for her. The piece is called, Is This What You Thought It Would Be Like? The answer is no, and I can’t take my eyes off you.
The tribute to the recently deceased, writer Valerie Gladstone in today’s program calls to mind what she inspired in curating mixed-bill programming — an atmosphere that is inclusive, supportive and appreciative of what each artist, regardless of style and experience, has to offer. It is affirming to be reminded of these values any day of the week, especially on a Sunday afternoon in church, for they describe the dance community at its best.
MAY 21 -24, 2015 : JOHANNA HEIGENSCHEIDT AND WOMEN IN MOTION