AUDIENCE REVIEW: ECS #7 – Emerging Choreographer Series
February 25, 2020
As a native NYer, I've been exposed to all sorts of art forms and expressions this city has to offer. Some are more engaging than others, but all offer a beauty and perspective. I came to see the Emerging Choreographer Series - showcasing the works of 10 choreographers, one of whom is a friend of mine.
My overall impressions were of a well-produced series of pieces. The overall flow, theater and stage setup, lighting and music, were all done well and offered a professional experience for the audience. The show began in the lobby, while the audience was waiting to gain entry into the theater, with 2 dancers.
The opening piece, titled The Show seemed to tell the story of a professional dancer/celebrity and a pining fan. The celebrity flitting around the lobby area, starting off on the red carpet, and continuing to undulate to the music throughout the lobby area, with the pining fan attempting to get her attention and getting selfies in with her idol in the background. After being ushered into the theater, the rest of the story unfolds for the sole dancer working on her craft in the hopes of reaching similar heights to her celebrity idol. I found the work to be interesting, with a novel take on the story. Overall, it was just ok. I didn't feel moved by it, and while I appreciated the training that was required of her to perform this piece, I wasn't personally touched or moved by it in any particular way.
The next performance, Come Heels or High Water, was performed by 3 dancers in various high heels, while talking through various pieces of dialogue to tell the story of the objectification of women, and the history of high heels, etc. While I enjoyed the political undertones and overtones, I felt that this could have easily been delved into more deeply. <!-- The dancing/movements were just....ok, and I felt that the political dialogue was somewhat shallow and kind of missed the whole crux of the issue. It just didn't get past the assertion that women are objectified in heels, and that some women feel both powerful in them, yet objectified by them. Ok, so what? Tell me more, bring me to a conclusion, or a direction - something! This work felt unpolished and unfinished. Also, the fact that it was 3 white women completely ignoring and unacknowledging the experience of any non-white woman in similar experiences felt naive and somewhat myopic. -->
T i l t S h i f t, the next piece, I found far more engaging. 6 dancers moving to the music, sometimes in unison, sometimes in groups of movements, created a beautiful flow on stage. There were clear influences of classic ballet along with more contemporary movements and the creation of interesting body shapes in their contortions to the music. My only real issue is that I felt that it ended too soon. I wanted to see more, and bring it to an emotional conclusion. Most interesting of this group was that it was comprised exclusively of Asian performers - which was at the very core of the piece.
The next performance, Ten Hail Marys, rubbed me the wrong way - which I guess was kind of the point. It sort of emulated a drill-sargeant/coach verbally abusing the other performers to keep going and keep moving in the practice. It was loud, it was aggressive. To say that I found the movements and flow aesthetically pleasing? I'm not sure. Was it provocative? Absolutely. During the Q&A after the show, they revealed that they were attempting to portray the point of failure as authentically as possible. While I kind of get where they were trying to go with this, I'm not sure that it read that way at all. It felt hyper-masculine with an all-woman troupe of dancers, with a lot of what is read as conventionally male aggression. Not really sure what the take-away was here.....
Tilted Glass portrayed the story and challenges of an individual with autism. I found this piece poignant and vulnerable. It found a way to bring to the audience the internal experience of someone who views and experiences the world through a different lens, and using movement to develop a language and communication to connect with those who are not on the spectrum. I found this piece beautiful and cerebrally, very powerful.
Invitation to Go Deeper was kind of non-descript. I didn't feel anything here as a take-away or anything, good or bad, that made it notable. While it was fun to watch the tap dancing as a group of people, I found their flailing arms were a distraction particularly because they were not in synchronization with each other. Instead, it served to look messy. Tap is both a visual and auditory art form and even from the auditory experience, it didn’t seem to have the finesse I’ve come to expect from professional tap dancers.
Llévame (R3$TRK†) I actually found the most offensive of the performances. It was choreographed and performed by the same dancer. It was supposed to portray living and dealing with drug addiction/abuse. I'm sorry, this piece was uninspired. The dancing wasn't particularly interesting, movements I would expect even non-professional dancers to make at a regular dance club or lounge. The flashing lights and overtones of speech in the background music, and yelling into the void all felt pretentious, arrogant, disingenuous, attention-seeking, and exploitative - hell, even the TITLE of the piece is pretentious, like trying to riff off cyber-LEET speak by replacing letters with other keyboard characters, like, WHY? What's the point? This felt like a commercial, surface portrayal of the darkness of dealing with substance abuse. <!-- I have no idea how this piece made it into the showcase at all. Especially by comparison to all the other pieces and performances, this was by far the biggest failure in the group. I was under the impression that each of the choreographers receive mentorship and advice - not sure where that went in this piece at all. The choreographer was also the youngest in the group, and perhaps a lack in life experience and perspective is the reason behind the piece. I'd have expected the mentors and/or advisors to have flagged this in some way and perhaps ushered or shepherded the choreographer into exploring another avenue for portrayal. -->
I absolutely loved Heavy Handed! 2 dancers going through a ballroom competition or performance. The dancing and movements were polished, the story was fun, and I was eager to watch the performance unfold. It was also quite clear that the 2 performers were enjoying themselves and really committed to the piece. Truly a pleasure to experience. Would have loved to have watched more!
Lastly, It Will Happen Again Tonight, was probably my favorite of them all. It was moody, atmospheric, and creepy in the best possible way. The movements by all the performers was ON POINT. Everything was polished - down to facial expressions and the strange angles of their limbs. The music provided an amazing backdrop for the piece and the confluence of movement of all the performers - both on and off stage - created a beautifully dynamic, well thought out and very well executed performance. My only issue is that it was TOO long. I'm wondering if this would have had a similar, if not greater, effect had it been cut by 5 minutes.
In summary, I think the ECS this year did an amazing job of inspiring, supporting and cultivating new artists in the world of dance and choreography. I think it's absolutely amazing that such a thing even exists and that they support artists both in studio resources as well as through financial support. Providing an incubation space while allowing these artists to learn from each other as well as from those who are more seasoned in the industry is something NYC should be proud of having and I'm eager to see what next year's is going to look like!