AUDIENCE REVIEW: 14th Annual Women's Works: iLand
July 26, 27 & 28, 2019
Summer perfection was celebrated in Maine with the 14th Annual Women’s Works production of iLand at the Crosby Center in Belfast. With its intergenerational cast, iLand combines professional mastery with an intimacy that comes from sustained community building.
Shana Bloomstein, the Artistic Director, is an accomplished dancer, choreographer and teacher. These credits are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her artistry and substantial contributions to Belfast, and the surrounding area of Mid Coast Maine. Not surprisingly, this remarkable woman was inspired and mentored by another remarkable woman, Lisa Newcomb, Founder and Director of Belfast Dance Studio.
In her pre-performance welcome, Bloomstein thanks Newcomb, acknowledging their history that began in her first dance classes at three years of age “learning how to skip over puddles.” The breadth of Newcomb’s role in providing a wellspring of dance for the community can be seen in her ongoing support of Bloomstein’s commitment to furthering the diverse, high quality and inclusive dance in Waldo County. As a result, Women’s Works is part of a network that serves this northeastern coastal area year-round, through the austerity of harsh winters into the vibrant bustle of summer with an influx of visitors and tourists. Its calendar brimming with activities – Country Fairs, Harbor Fest, Arts in the Park, the Celtic Festival – and dance, as always, a highlight of summer in Belfast.
Women’s Works is a hub of choreographic energy that annually hosts a range of artists, who weave together individual and collaborative creations into a cohesive and satisfying performance. This year was no exception. Bloomstein, who danced professionally in New York City for several years with renowned artist, Nia Love; Jesse Phillips-Fein, the esteemed Brooklyn-based dancer/choreographer, writer and teacher, and who, among other pursuits, has studied and danced in Haiti and Cuba; and the luminous dancer/choreographer, Molly Gawler, who, among her many professional accomplishments, toured world-wide with Pilobolus Dance Theatre for seven years. Along with a talented range of dancers and choreographers, such as Joan Proudman and Katenia Keller, who are also successful visual artists, they organically unite large group dances with solos, duets and trios, for performers of all ages including members of the Belfast Dance Studio Summer Dance Camp for Teens.
The overarching achievement of iLand is the cultivation of fully inhabited kinesthetic imagery, spun together to make an exceptional evening of dance. Movement images of water and land support and contain a gamut of connections from delicate to powerful occurring between the dancers and their physical environment, between their personal bodies and each other. From the first moments of the performance, as the entire cast slowly emerges wave-like, traveling from behind the audience onto the stage, it is clear we are being taken on a voyage.
Not only are images of water and land evoked by the dancers’ bodies, but the music, some of it live, enriches the stories. For instance, Antone Viera beautifully performs Kyle Reid’s arrangement of Tom Waits’s “Picture in a Frame” for Tides (ties). Dawud Bloomstein, who has a strong stage presence, accompanies the duet, before.again. (just one more time) by Bloomstein and Phillips-Fein, with Chopin’s “Nocturne No. 20 in C Sharp Minor” and remains unfazed when, toward the end, the dancers climb on the piano as if it were a boat the pianist is gliding through the sea. Dolphin dance, performed and choreographed by Molly Gawler to "Ave Maria" by Yo Yo Ma and Bobbi McFerrin, captures the undulating viscosity of the ocean hosting the buoyant weight and weightlessness of mammals – human or otherwise. I Got’ch You, is a stunning duet choreographed and performed by Bloomstein and Gawler, to the evocative recording of "Sun Will Set" by the solo cello artist, Zoe Keating (from one cello x 16).
The evening ends as the community of dancers pour off the stage, slowly traveling back through the audience the way they’d arrived, but even more connected, as if by ancient tidal rituals. Then, the departing white-clad cast members stop to linger, framing us in a wide circle from the edges of the theater, a refreshing calm envelops the audience and our applause. Perhaps the most memorable exchange of all happens as the audience rises to cheer the surrounding artists, who then cheer back at us.
— By Cathy Appel
July 26, 27 & 28, 2019
The Crosby Center
96 Church Street
Belfast, ME 04915
Shana Bloomstein: Artistic Director Women’s Works
Author: Cathy Appel
Photo Credit: John Selmer-Larsen