Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
Teens@Graham, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Photo: Melissa Sherwood
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Impressions of Bryn Cohn and Artists’ "Home"

Impressions of Bryn Cohn and Artists’ "Home"
Theo Boguszewski

By Theo Boguszewski
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on April 21, 2016
Photo: Tony Turner

Presented by ITE at Shetler Studios as part of ITE’s 3rd Annual Dance Festival

Choreography: Bryn Cohn

Music: Original Score by Kevin Keller with additional artists Peter Broderick, Ludovico Einaudi + Chopin

Costumes: Sebastian Arango

Dancers: Rachel Abrahams, David Ferguson, Jessica Malat, Nik Owens and Yuliya Romanakaya


Although making art for art’s sake can be idealized, it is hard to deny the importance of the audience. Ultimately, most choreographers aim to make work that people want to see. While Bryn Cohn has a brilliant mind, a conservatory degree, a capable team of dancers, and an adept musical collaborator, in New York City, this is standard fare. More important, she has an audience that wants to see more Bryn Cohn.

Bryn Cohn presents an excerpt from Home, her latest work-in-process, as part of Inception To Exhibition (ITE)’s 3rd Annual Dance Festival. ITE was founded by Matthew Fisher and Tiffany Rae-Fisher in 2009 with the mission of providing space for artists of various disciplines to interact and collaborate during the creative process: in other words, from inception to exhibition. To involve the community in the creative process, each year ITE hosts the “Fan Favorite” Facebook contest, in which audience members select their favorite participant. The winner earns a solo show at Shetler Studios. This year, Bryn Cohn and Dancers was the unmistakable first choice.

A close of a woman with red lips and bangs. Two performers stand behind her.
Photo: Tony Turner

Home acts as a cinematic exploration of family dynamics. The work illuminates the web of relationships that exists within a group of people intimately connected. Throughout the piece, Cohn takes ideas of the traditional, utopian family and smashes them apart, allowing us to see what lies underneath.

Home shows clean, clear images straight from the opening snapshot where five dancers circle a white table. Kevin Keller’s original score mimics suburban sounds: birds chirp and an ice cream truck chimes incessantly. Sebastian Arango gorgeously costumes the cast in starched dress shirts, long dresses, which are constructed from expensive-looking material and in bright colors.

Throughout the first section, the dancers restructure the stage; they scoot tables and chairs into new landscapes that they explore. This changing space represents a constantly shifting internal dynamic inside a close-knit group.

A woman in a plaid dress with a petticoat peaking out from underneath crouches and peers up at a woman in a yellow blouse and blue skirts
Photo: Tony Turner

Cohn’s movement vocabulary is highly physical, with lots of dynamic partnering. The dancers use the onstage boundaries like a playground: climbing on, sliding through, and then lifting each other over them. Cunningham-esque moments pepper this athleticism. A promenade with an outstretched leg or an arabesque into an attitude curve showcases astonishing control.

While the action remains continuous, stunning moments of visual clarity appeal to our love of unity. Out of the chaos, a vertical line forms. From across the stage, two dancers sync up.

Specific relationships emerge with the most prevalent between dancers Nik Owens and Jessica Malat, who portray parent-like figures. Their connection evolves through the second half and culminates in a spectacular duet that spirals through conflict and passion. During one explosive vignette, the rest of the cast crouches underneath the chairs like children hiding while their parents fight.

One dancer looks up as she crouches downstage left. One male dancer holds another by his wrists. A woman her back to the audience revealing a backless blouse.
Photo: Tony Turner

The piece finishes with all five dancers lined up as if posing for a portrait. This conclusion drives home the theme of external versus internal — the outside can conceal what goes on behind closed doors.

Although Home is explicitly about the nuclear family, everyone can relate to it. In a post-show discussion, Cohn speaks of finding home in our friends, in our coworkers, and in one another.  Cohn’s exploration resonates in this particular city, where many of us are far from our physical homes. As a result, our immediate communities become a home.

Although Home is well polished, it is still in process, a fact that Cohn, who likes her ducks in a row, admits to finding daunting. “Work-in-progress showings can be so vulnerable!” she exclaims. The company is working toward a performance at Gibney Dance in mid June, and Cohn asks for feedback from the audience

“You’re doing the right thing, just keep going,” is the overriding sentiment.

See Bryan Cohn and Artists in a collaborative evening with BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance at The Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center at Gibney Dance on June 16th-18th

 

 

 

 

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