Impressions from Philadelphia: Kun-Yang Lin/ Dancers’ Prince Theatre Season
Moment/s: From The Mobile to The Moderate
Choreographer: Kun- Yang Lin
The Prince Theatre, Philadelphia
April 14 – 16th, 2016
Before moving to Philadelphia, my knowledge of dance was limited to the scene in New York City. Spaces like The Joyce, Lincoln Center, St. Marks Church, and Riverside Church Theatre, presented dance companies with diverse aesthetics; so it was easy to experience a plethora of dance without leaving New York. But, with its share of dance schools, performance spaces, and dance companies, Philadelphia is also a place where dance thrives.
Kun-Yang Ling/Dancers is one company on the dance map in The City of Brotherly Love that continues to push artistic boundaries.
Choreographer and artistic director of KYL/D, Kun-Yang Lin, presented three world premieres and a revision of a former work, at the company’s home season at the Prince Theatre. Admittedly, I have seen Lin’s works in many venues but never a program boasting three world premieres.
I sometimes find it problematic when choreographers show a night of their works, as the possibility of sameness presents itself, resulting in a viewing experience with very limited variety. And while some may be drawn to such uniformity, the monotony may border excessive for others.
Many of works in KYL/D’s repertoire, deal with transformation and journey. Older pieces like Crossings, One-Immortal Game, and Home/S.9th St., refer to passage. This common denominator helps thread spirituality through Lin’s works. It is within the realm of otherworldliness that Lin’s aesthetic allows his dancers to move from rapid, hurried movements to a more meditative pace with ease.
The show opened with Dreamscape and dance artist Nikolai McKenzie painted the upstage space with distortions as he moved from stage right to stage left. Like an amoeba with a spine, he sinuously organized his body, bending and twisting as if he was drawing the letter S, careful to allow every joint to be affected by his wavelike quality. McKenzie's efforts were rewarded with audible gasps appreciation from the audience.
In the world premiere Moment/s, dancer Evalina Carbonell stood out with her seamless level changes, descending from standing to crawling at a swift pace. After seeing Carbonell in a few of Lin’s works, her commitment to delivering his intention is obvious. She attacks the work with zeal and stays alert with a readiness to perform any transition.
Wearing costumes of a greyish hue, another world premiere Vertigo, displayed the dancers in many forms of off-centeredness. They moved at dizzying speeds before resolving in a clump where each artist slowly dissolved to the floor.
The last piece, Autumn Skin, was a revision from 2016 choreography vault. Lin’s choreographic formula continued in the style of his previous works; a noticeable pattern of group pieces from which solos and duets were extracted. The vocabulary included poses that trailed off into rippling torsos before settling into moments of brief suspensions.
One moment reminiscent of Zoe Juniper’s BeginAgain occurred as dance artists Brian Cardova and Annielille Gavino-Kollman, played in the lighting design of Stephen Petrilli, creating shadows reflected on the scrim. Living in the front lights, the shadows extended from their motionless bodies. Cardova’s reflection was hulk-like when lit, but Gavino-Kollman’s was miniature in comparison because of her distance from the strategically placed downstage light. Performing gestures at a relaxed pace, the two live bodies and the two shadows produced quartet. Visually striking, the image spoke to how one can be transported by Lin’s choreography.
While the dancers of KYL/D swam in Lin’s choreography, I kept thinking that something was missing from each work. There was always an edge to Lin’s choreography; something offbeat about phrasing, something gritty about his vocabulary. And after watching this season, I began to wonder if Lin’s choreography had gotten more conservative than gutsy. I was pleased at what the dancers brought to the stage, but I missed the audaciousness of Lin’s earlier works.
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