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Dancer With An Attitude

The Trey McIntyre Project

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You can tell a lot about a company by how they run together. If the steps are out of sync or tentative, the execution of the choreography probably is as well. When The Trey McIntyre Project runs across the stage it is powerful. They have the drive of a pack of wolves and are as precise as a school of fish. The strides aren’t thrown away. They have meaning and are a cohesive act that represents the dancers are united in this experience.

They had me at Etta. The first piece, Blue Until June, was a series danced to the masterful mellow crooning of Etta James. The opening image, a naked back surrounded by mountains of brown fabric spanning the length of the stage, was a commanding way to start the show. As the lights go up we realize it is a muscular female form, Lauren Edson, pushing the shadows around the landscape of her skin. The fabric rolls away to reveal a hard and strong interpretation of the aggressive choreography, which was in stark contrast to the music. The entire company, unexpectedly, rolls out of the yardage and with equal precision and strength the love stories unfold.

The movement is athletic. We see flicks of legs, pirouettes to falls, donkey kicks to the hands, legs à la seconde and flexed feet and hinges en pointe that take them all the way to the floor. Images of a creative track and field event kept dancing in my head, a choreographic Olympic games, if you will.

You have to hand it to the dance world to be in-discriminatory and unapologetic about love. Trey McIntyre presents us with a touching male duet. This is a tale of broken hearts as one dancer pushes the other, wanting but not having. The rejected dancer walks away on his heels, as though something is keeping him from leaving. There is a strong thick bond between the two. The former ultimately walking off stage hand in hand with an unsuspecting female partner.

The sign of a fine choreographer is to be able to tell these timeless stories in a non-literal fashion. There is no pantomime or words. The vignettes are told through complicated and well crafted movement and a pure real time connection between the performers.

The rest of the concert was consistently strong. Bad Winter is piece in 2 parts. The first solo is a riveting show by Chanel DaSilva to the old timey rendition of Pennies from Heaven. DaSilva’s ensemble work in the first piece was good, but it didn’t prepare me for what an intense soloist she is. I was with her for every rippling battement to fetal position.

The solo leads into the highlight of the evening, a duet between Travis Walker and Edson. To understand dance you have to comprehend that it is not about the steps strung together. The magic happens in the fractions of time in between the steps. It is the choreography within the choreography. McIntyre understands this and he is smart enough to have surrounded himself with a company of performers who understand this as well. There was no better example than this duet. They took my breath away. My favorite moments were the silent ones.

The last piece of the evening, The Sweeter End, was upbeat. The costumes seemed to represent couples from different eras such as the flapper 20’s, London punk 80’s, deep south who-knows-when and urban today. If I were to say anything constructively critical at all, it would be to rethink the costumes. I don’t think they helped the story along and took away from the brilliant performances happening underneath. And the dancing was exceptional. Honestly, I would love to see it again with everyone in just jeans and t-shirts.

At the Rialto on Saturday, March 10th, 2012, the first thing written on the poster for this company was Ballet. Trey McIntyre is a contemporary ballet choreographer at best. I would even challenge that label to a full- fledged modern artist. Although the technique is definitely there, just because pointe shoes are worn doesn’t mean that ballet is what’s happening. But I will tell you what is happening. This Company has it going on… from fierce technique, to surprising choreography, to a professional presence and connection that resonates throughout the proscenium. So, I think, using the word Ballet is misleading and they are doing themselves a bit of an injustice. Energy, Passion and Dance would be a better fit. This Dancer With An Attitude gives them a giant thumbs up.

Dancer With An Attitude

The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee

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“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee

The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Beginning 1.31.15

There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”

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Dancer With An Attitude

Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”

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photo : Chris Carder
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The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence

The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.

The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.

“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”

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Dance

T. Lang: A Woman Searching

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The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience.  Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place.  The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from.  Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.

On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s  performance of Post Up.  The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings.   The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison.  An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through.  The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.

The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent.  Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.

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