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IMPRESSIONS: Times Square Arts/Danspace Project Site-Specific Commissions with Laurie Berg, luciana achugar, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio

IMPRESSIONS: Times Square Arts/Danspace Project Site-Specific Commissions with Laurie Berg, luciana achugar, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on September 24, 2018
Photo: Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

September 21, 2018

Times Square

Choreographers: Laurie Berg, luciana achugar, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia and Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio, Full Circle Souljahs

Dancers: Jodi Bender, Laurie Berg, Melanie Greene, Madison Krekel, Kyle Marshall, Tonya Sisco, Anna Adams Stark, luciana achugar, Oren Barnoy, Rachel Berman, Malcolm-x Betts, Michael Mahalchick, Rebecca Wender, Sarah White, Odylle "Mantis" Beder, John "Flonetik" Vinuya, Nasir "Kid Break" Malave, Mark "Styleski," Raymond "Spex" Abbiw, Richard James

FC Hardrocks: Deana Richline, Jennifer "Beasty" Acosta, Janice Tomlinson, Sharmaine Sheppard

Costume Design/Concept: Liliana Dirks-Goodman, Jaime Shearn Coan, Laurie Berg

Sound Design: Rena Anakwe

Photo above:Full Circle Souljahs', Behind the Groove — Times Square Edition, Danspace Project at Times Square. 

Surrounded 360 degrees by forty constantly changing films, sixteen enormous posters, and multiple neon-adorned skyscrapers, seven dancers held hands and weaved their way through the crowd at Duffy Square. They were as solemn and out-of-place as an Amish family in a horse and buggy trotting down an eight-lane highway. When Laurie Berg’s sneaker-clad performers struck a pose in a line, their stillness was a chance to inhale their simplicity. During scape, you couldn’t help but shake your head at the screaming contrast between art and commerce.

As the dancers climbed the stairs over the ticket booth, they slowly put on long-sleeved gloves — one blue, one orange — without a wink at the Kinky Boots marquee within peripheral view. The seven sat at the top of the stairs and executed a series of polyrhythmic patterns, crossing one or both arms to shoulder or knee. A cardboard sign reading THE END held by a performer announced the close.

Dancers in red and blue costumes pointing their arms to the sky. A crowd, some people wearing 3-d glasses, stand around them.
Laurie Berg's scape, Danspace Project at Times Square. Photo: Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

After 15 minutes, another seven dancers of all sizes in blue jeans and minimalist red shoes stretched on their back. Their wide arms created a circle on Broadway Plaza, three blocks south of Duffy Square, as a video ad ran on the south side of the square, displaying “Sometimes Naked is Better.” In luciana achugar’s New Mass Dance, the viewer could gaze down at the legs waving in the air and then up at the ticker tape of ESPN and ABC News.

The group clapped and spun in a half turn; they huddled, chanting in a low moan, bringing to mind the social protests of yore. Singing in unison, the dancers walked back north with an air of serenity, possibly of solidarity. 

A group of dancers lay on the ground. They wear red shoes and jeans and jean button ups.
luciana achugar's New Mass Dance, Danspace Project at Times Square. Photo: Ian Douglas for Times Square Arts.

For the event’s finale, Ana "Rokafella" Garcia, her husband Gabriel "Kwikstep" Dionisio, and their Full Circle Souljahs mounted the Duffy Square stage with its giant sign for Danspace. They ordered the crowd to “Make some noise.”

Rokafella and Kwikstep had a homecoming during Behind the Groove — Times Square Edition. They met dancing in separate hip-hop crews in Times Square in the early 90s. Virtuosic, fast, clean, and frontal, their dancers fit right into the Broadway environment, seemingly feeding off the digital circus of Times Square. They set up a competition, giving visibility to the talented members of an underground dance community and celebrating the improvisational inventiveness of this form.

The event, as stimulating as it was, left questions as to why Danspace felt they needed a presence in Midtown and whether an audience unfamiliar with dance was intrigued. Was this brave, bold experiment more effective as a commercial for the downtown dance community or as an anti-commercial statement?

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