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IMPRESSIONS: Battery Dance NOW at New York Live Arts

IMPRESSIONS: Battery Dance NOW at New York Live Arts
Sarah Cecilia Bukowski

By Sarah Cecilia Bukowski
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Published on March 22, 2023
Battery Dance in "A Liminal Year." Photo by Steven Pisano

Artistic Director: Jonathan Hollander

Dancers: Sarah Housepian, Vivake Khamsingsavath, Jillian Linkowski, Zaki A’Jani Marshall, Amy Saunder, and Razvan Stoian

[Artists in cover image: (L-R) Jillian Linkowski, Sarah Housepian, Vivake Khamsingsavath, and Zaki A’Jani Marshall]

Battery Dance celebrated its 47th season at New York Live Arts with a triple bill of contemporary dance works by female choreographers. Each dance was created in 2021 for an outdoor setting as part of the Battery Dance Festival, and here they made their premieres as fully staged works. A music video, “GREY,” was also featured as an interlude between dances.

The company’s six exceptional dancers carried the evening in style, each with their own take on three distinct movement languages. Sarah Housepian was a standout performer whose pronounced dynamic shifts allowed for focused precision through her full range, from soft and pensive to wild and explosive. All together, the Battery Dance ensemble featured a pleasing array of distinct physicalities and personalities who embodied a sense of trust and community in their lush partnering and tight unisons.

“It Goes By Quick”
Choreography: Ana Maria Lucaciu with the dancers of Battery Dance
Music: T.M. Rives with music by Artie Saw, AGF
Costumes: Ana Maria Lucaciu
Lighting Design: Leonardo Hidalgo

In “It Goes By Quick,” choreographer Ana Maria Lucaciu drew on humor and kitsch to craft a deeper message about the precious and fleeting nature of life. Lucaciu’s geometrical asymmetries, slinking swivels, and sensuous slides puzzled the dancers through tight groupings, contemplative solos, and curious animalistic pairings. Lucaciu credits the dancers as choreographic collaborators in their gestural language of tension and longing, which evoked just the right emotional tone against a backdrop of soft forest sounds and atmospheric music. Dressed in neat pedestrian clothes, the dancers came across as real people seeking self-actualization in a world very much our own.

a tableau of dancers bathed in blue light, a woman, the central figure a woman leans to one side, and the figures around her stare at her thoughtfully
(L-R) Razvan Stoian, Amy Saunder, Jillian Linkowski, and Vivake Khamsingsavath in Ana Maria Lucaciu’s “It Goes By Quick." Photo by Steven Pisano

A potted tree in a sunny spotlight downstage left functioned as Lucaciu’s narrator in T.M. Rives’ spoken word score, musing variously on life and commenting on the onstage action. The tree, of course, lives with a different sense of time than the dancing humans it watches over, with every detail of the slippery dance highlighted by this fact. These narrative insights gave the audience a cheeky guidebook and sounding board for their own perspectives on the dance and on life itself.

“The Liminal Year”
Choreography: Robin Cantrell
Music: Alexis Gideon
Costumes: Christine Darch
Lighting Design: Leonardo Hidalgo

Robin Cantrell’s “The Liminal Year” unfolded as a series of vignettes reflecting on individuals and community. The piece drew an arc from stilted, linear two-dimensional gestures to rounded, exuberant three-dimensional movement as the dancers burst to life both individually and collectively. The work’s episodic structure allowed Cantrell to capitalize on the unique strengths of the performers, and each dancer was never less than fully invested in every turn of the movement’s depth, grace, and quirk.

Cantrell’s score, created in collaboration with composer Alexis Gideon, meandered from meditative drones and bells to pounding drums, sentimental vocals, and driving electronic rhythms, each evoking a definitive mood and tone. Leonardo Hidalgo’s dynamic lighting design supported this effect with a vibrant emotional palette as each color combination—pale jade fading to violet, a wash of indigo over lemon—glowed a different aura into each scene. Notably, both Cantrell and Lucaciu drew on their pandemic experiences in their work, and while these themes were evident throughout, both works read as fresh, uplifting, and timeless.

Director and Editor: Barry Steele
Music and Lyrics: Eventually Epic (Debarun Bhattacharjya and Sachin Premasuthan)
Dancers/choreographers: Jillian Linkowski and Razvan Stoian

Barry Steele’s short film “GREY” featured dancers Jillian Linkowski and Razvan Stoian dancing together in various outdoor settings around the city. Music by Eventually Epic served to accompany their sweeping partnering and solo phrases on themes of longing and intimacy.

“A Certain Mood”
Choreography: Tsai Hsi Hung
Music: Iggy Hung
Costumes: Tsai Hsi Hung
Lighting Design: Leonardo Hidalgo

a Black man in tight black pants, and an open black jacket, his chest is bare, kicks one leg very high to his side, he has an intent concentrated look on his face. The kick is impressive.
 Zaki A’Jani Marshall in Tsai Hsi Hung’s “A Certain Mood." Photo by Steven Pisano

The evening closed with Tsai Hsi Hung’s “A Certain Mood,” inspired by Hans Hofmann’s abstract, colorful painting of the same name (Hung is also a painter). The work’s geometries and energetic propulsion reflected Hofmann’s “push and pull” painting technique in its stark juxtaposition of opposites, particularly light and dark. Dressed in severe black, the dancers navigate perimeters, corridors, and boxes of light with intense focus. Percussive footfalls and hand slaps punctuated their explosive movement, supported by a driving score that merged resounding drums with thunder, rainfall, and heavy breathing. The dancers sustained tension in moments of stillness, only to release emphatically through splayed fingers and wild bursts of running and jumping. While the work certainly showcased dramatic and athletic range, energy was at maximum capacity throughout, leaving both the dancers and this viewer exhausted by its close.

For an organization whose work includes performance, presenting opportunities, local community-based work, and global cultural diplomacy, Battery Dance maintains a sharp curatorial eye and an ensemble of impressive caliber. One can only hope to experience more from the creative voices featured in this program.

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