IMPRESSIONS: Nimbus Dance in "IGNITE" in Jersey City

IMPRESSIONS: Nimbus Dance in "IGNITE" in Jersey City
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on April 3, 2024
Nimbus Dance. Photo courtesy of the company

Choreographers: Samuel Potts, Dawn Marie Bazemore and Roger C. Jeffrey

Dancers: Jason Samuels Smith, Leighann Curd, Johnny del Jesus, Catherine Escueta, Agustin Gomes, Shayla Hutton, Caleb Mansor, Tamir Rios, Victoria Santaguida, Kanon Sugino, Mika Greene and Kaysha Smith

Musicians: Winard Harper, Sam Cooke and Igor Stravinsky

“Ain’t that good news. Man, ain’t that news,” so sang Sam Cooke, as recorded in 1964. If that song doesn’t make your spine tingle, then Dawn Marie Bazemore's choreography for that classic tune, along with other Cooke favorites certainly will. This sweet group dance for nine, titled The New Tide, closed Bazemore’s homage to iconic artist Gordon Parks, whose 50-60’s photography is projected, alternately, on the back screen,  a small, mobile screen, and on the dancers. 

A female trio in red pillbox hats and short dresses, dancing in front of one of Parks' photos of stylish women (one of his many fashion assignments for LIFE magazine between 1948 and 1951) was a standout in this series of vignettes that pulled some element from each image.

dancers in red dresses and matching pillbox hats  in front of a Gordon Parks black and white fashion photo
Nimbus dancers (L ro R): Shayla Hutton, Catherine Escueta, Victoria Santaguida in The New Tide. Photo: Courtesy of Nimbus Dance. Projected image by Gordon Parks

Sam Potts, a handsome man with a gentle giant demeanor and disarming manner, addressed the audience to introduce an excerpt from his Firebird, which the New Jersey Symphony commissioned for a 2025 performance of the Igor Stravinsky score. “I think of my company as a lab. We start with a number of questions, all of which may not have answers. I couldn’t relate to the Russian folk tale behind  The Firebird. It all starts with an egg, so I began thinking about what would be contemporary takes on The Firebird, such as fire rockets. Icarus, the Greek God who flew too close to the sun, came to mind,” mused Potts.

Nimbus dancer Tamir Rios in Firebird. Photo: Kelly Fletcher

In the excerpts shown, a child-figure, Kanon Sugino (the  striking dancer who also was the first soloist in The New Tide) is carried on stage in an ungainly manner by a man and a woman who then cast her aside.  A young man appears. A strap that holds feathers is stretched over his shoulders from hand to hand; perhaps he’s Icarus? The vibrant  colors normally associated with interpretations of "The Firebird" are replaced  by beiges and greys. Could Pott's new take be seen as a protest of Russian politics?  We'll know for sure when the work premieres in  2025.

Nimbus dance in  Firebird. Photo: Kelly Fletcher

Closing the night was Insight/Incite choreographed for the company by Roger C. Jeffrey, with live music by percussion virtuosos — jazz drummer, Winard Harper,  and tap dancer, Jason Samuels Smith. Smith was charming, and as crisp a tapper as ever.  A Jersey City native, he matched the texture and gloss of Harper on the drums as he drilled his heels, and slapped his feet on a small square. As the two took a breather, in streamed five Nimbus dancers with a flash of 1940s modern dance aesthetic. The dancers were drawn high and taut; their torsos, hips, and heads , still. Counterpointing Smith’s waist-long dreadlocks and slightly bowed posture, the Nimbus cast swirl around him, wisps of cloud spinning like laser-pointed tornados.

Winard Harper and Jason Samuels Smith with NImbus dancers Johnny Del Jesus and Caleb Mansor in Incite/Insight. Photo: Courtesy of Nimbus Dance

No visa required to enter Jersey City, and astonishingly quick to reach from Manhattan! Nimbus Dance, founded in 2005 by Sam Potts gained, in collaboration with the developer LMC and The Lively, an enviable home that opened in 2019. It's  a magnificent venue — with studios for its school, mini store, gallery, and 150 seat 14,200 square foot, black box theatre. Ain’t this all Good News?


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